As we near the end of Movember, the aim of which is to raise awareness of prostate cancer, it has been announced that about 9,000 NHS patients in England with advanced prostate cancer will be eligible to receive an innovative new treatment that will increase their chances of survival.
Currently it is estimated that there are 52,000 new prostate cancer diagnoses in the UK every year, and 395,000 men currently living with the disease. 12,000 men die per year, most of whom have advanced cancer – when the cancer has spread (‘metastasised’) to other parts of the body.
Previously treatment for advanced cancer has been limited to chemotherapy, and anti-androgen therapy, a treatment slowing or halting the growth of the hormone, androgen, which prostate cancers need to grow. During the course of the last few years, however, a new treatment – darolutamide (also known as Nubeqa) – has been trialled by 1,300 men in 23 countries. The treatment works by blocking receptors in cancer cells from binding to androgen hormones, preventing the cancer from growing and expanding. The results, published in The New England Journal of Medicine in March 2022, show that the drug can help control the hormone that prostate cancer cells need to keep growing, and men who were treated were 32.5% less likely to die than those who were not.
NHS patients in England with advanced prostate cancer will be the first group of patients in Europe to receive darolutamide, after its use was approved by the UK medicines regulator, the MHRA. It will be given in tablet form and prescribed alongside androgen deprivation therapy to keep testosterone levels low and help the treatment work.
Medical oncologist, Dr Dakshinamoorthy Muthukumar, is reported as saying: “This drug is proven to have real benefits for patients, and I have seen first-hand how it has saved lives, giving our patients in trials who have had limited success with other treatments complete and long-lasting remission from cancer, and hope of a future that is cancer-free. It is fantastic that the treatment will now be made available to eligible patients across the NHS, and we can continue to expand the number and type of treatments we have available to beat cancer.”
Professor Peter Johnson, NHS national director for cancer, said: “This innovative treatment builds on the NHS ambition to improve cancer care and survival rates and will help thousands of men diagnosed with prostate cancer to live a better-quality life, decreasing their chance of dying by one third.”
Arran Macleod, senior associate in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches Cooper, comments: “Because of quite non-specific symptoms, and because men in the UK are often afraid to speak with their doctor about potentially worrying symptoms, it is common for prostate cancer diagnoses in the UK to be made when the cancer is at, or approaching, advanced stages. This is one of the reasons why the UK reports a relatively high mortality of prostate cancer patients compared with some other European countries. We are pleased, therefore, to read about the positive effects that darolutamide is reported to have on controlling the cancer in patients with advanced disease, and that the number of annual deaths associated with advanced disease will be expected to reduce by as much as one third.”
If you have any concerns that your prostate cancer has been diagnosed late, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our specialist team for some preliminary advice.