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How a double dose of prostate drugs can boost survival rates by up to 40%

Thousands of men could benefit from a new way of treating prostate cancer that doubles their average life expectancy, research has found.

Giving patients a combination of two drugs makes them nearly 40 per cent more likely to be alive after three years, the findings showed. British scientists behind the trial believe it will ‘transform’ prostate cancer treatment.

Currently, men with prostate cancer that has spread to surrounding tissue in the pelvic area are only given hormone therapy. This reduces the levels of the male hormones or ‘androgens’, which would otherwise fuel tumour growth.

Research found giving patients a combination of two drugs makes them nearly 40 per cent more likely to be alive after three years 9stock image)

But the research, unveiled at the American Society for Clinical Oncology conference in Chicago, found prescribing the drug abiraterone at the same time hugely improved the effectiveness of treatment.

Scientists from the University of Birmingham recruited 1,900 men with prostate cancer that had spread to their pelvic area or other organs. Of the 646 that died over three years, 262 had received just hormones, compared to only 184 who also received abiraterone. This represents an improved survival rate of 37 per cent.

If given both drugs, researchers believe a majority of the 15,000 men a year whose cancer spreads to the pelvic area would live the rest of their lives disease-free.

If they were given to the 5,000 men with more advanced cancer, scientists predict average life expectancy would double from 3.5 years to at least seven. Birmingham University’s Professor Nicholas James, the chief investigator of the study, said: ‘These are the most powerful results I’ve seen from a prostate cancer trial.’

Approximately 46,500 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in the UK every year. Around half are eligible for hormone therapy with abiraterone.

Dr Iain Frame, director of research at Prostate Cancer UK, said: ‘We will be working with all relevant bodies to make sure this treatment becomes an option available via the NHS.’