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Radiotherapy hope for prostate cancer

A targeted form of radiotherapy can cure prostate cancer in men whose disease was previously thought to be incurable, research suggests.

A pioneering study has found that using a specialised type of radiotherapy that is highly targeted can stop the disease in its tracks.

Researchers from the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in London and the UK’s leading cancer hospital, the Royal Marsden, found that intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) helped eradicate the disease when used on cancer cells that had spread from the original tumour to pelvic lymph nodes.

IMRT enables doctors to give a high dose of radiation directly to cancer cells while protecting the surrounding healthy tissue, thereby cutting down on side-effects.

In the new study on 447 men, 71 per cent of patients with prostate cancer were alive and also completely free from disease five years after treatment with IMRT.

When the trial began, many of the patients were considered incurable.

Experts have always thought that giving radiotherapy to the lymph nodes near a prostate tumour is too risky due to the damage that can be done to the bowel from the therapy.

But the new study showed that when using IMRT rather than conventional radiotherapy, only 8 to 16 per cent suffered issues with their bladder or bowel.

The trial found that IMRT could safely be given to the pelvis – a common site for prostate cancer cells to spread – to help stop the disease going further.

Professor Paul Workman, chief executive of the ICR, said: “Radiotherapy is often seen as perhaps old-fashioned and crude compared with other cancer treatments – but nothing could be further from the truth.”

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