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Tackling prostrate cancer

11 August 2009

Professor Malcolm MasonProfessor Malcolm Mason

Survival rates for men with advanced prostate cancer improve when they are given drugs which help prevent the loss of bone mass, a joint University study has found.

The study, funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and led jointly by Professor Malcolm Mason, Cancer Research Wales Professor of Clinical Oncology, School of Medicine and Professor David Dearnaley of the Institute of Cancer Research, examined the long-term effect of sodium clodronate on men with advanced and localised prostate cancer.

As prostate cancer is known to spread to bone, the trial examined whether patients taking bisphosphonates, such as sodium clodronate, improved the survival rates for advanced prostate cancer sufferers.

The results of the study found that after five years the overall survival rate for men with advanced prostate cancer was 30% in the clodronate treated group compared to the 21% in those who were not given the drug.

The increase was also shown after a 10 year period and found a 17% survival rate in the clodronate treated group compared to 9% in those who had not received the drug.

Professor Malcolm Mason, Cancer Research Wales’ Professor of Clinical Oncology at Cardiff University’s School of Medicine, who jointly led the study said: "This is the first long-term clinical trial to show an overall survival benefit conferred by an oral bisphosphonate when given in addition to standard hormone therapy to men with bone metastases who are starting or responding to hormone therapy.

"Importantly for patients, the study confirmed that those with advanced prostate cancer, when given an oral sodium clodronate, show an improved overall survival rate."

However, the trial also examined whether the same benefit was found for prostate cancer sufferers at a local stage, where the cancer had not spread to the bone.

The research found these patients did not reduce the risk of death and found no evidence that clodronate is of any benefit when given in addition to their treatment.

Professor Mason is now calling for more research to be done to take forward the study’s results and take account of the latest developments in bisphosphonates drugs.

Professor Mason added: "Most men diagnosed with localised prostate cancer today have an extremely good outlook, but prostate cancer still claims the lives of some 10,000 men each year in the UK - we badly need better treatments for these men.

"As we know from these studies, bisphosphonates may now be an important weapon against prostate cancer spreading to bone. However, sodium clodronate, is not as potent as newer bisphosphonates that have developed since these studies were completed.

"These results add weight to continued call for additional research to be carried for the benefit of all types of prostate cancer sufferers."

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