Adding abiraterone to the standard treatment for prostate cancer could halve the risk of death in some patients and improve outcomes for thousands of people every year, according to a study led by UCL.

While abiraterone is currently being used for patients with advanced prostate cancer which has spread to other parts of the body and for men who have stopped responding to standard hormone treatment, there have remained questions over its benefits and impact on survival in earlier-stage disease.

However, the results of this study indicate that using abiraterone to treat earlier stage prostate cancer could extend lives and prevent the cancer from spreading. As a result, NHS England are now considering rolling out the treatment to all prostate cancer patients.

No benefit to taking both abiraterone and enzalutamide together

The researchers followed nearly 2,000 patients over a six-year period, with 988 on standard treatment while 986 patients were given the standard treatment combined with abiraterone. Around half of those in the abiraterone group were also given enzalutamide, another hormone therapy.

After six years of monitoring, those in the abiraterone group showed improved survival rates and decreased chances of the cancer spreading. Indeed, 15% of those receiving standard care died during the follow-up period compared to just 7% of those receiving abiraterone.

The study found there was no benefit to taking both abiraterone and enzalutamide, as it did not improve outcomes beyond taking abiraterone on its own and caused an increase in side effects.

Professor Gert Attard (UCL Cancer Institute), co-author of the study, said: "This is the first time we’ve seen a treatment for this kind of prostate cancer that can do more than extend life. We’re seeing clear and convincing evidence that some people who would have died of prostate cancer, the third leading cause of cancer death in the UK, will no longer die from it.”

The trial has led to 29 changes in clinical practice across the world

The study, published in the Lancet, is part of the STAMPEDE trial and was led by a team at the UCL Cancer Institute with collaborators at The Institute of Cancer Research, London and funded by Cancer Research UK and the MRC.

Michelle Mitchell, Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK, said the trial has “Recruited over 10,000 patients and has led to 29 changes in clinical practice across the world, directly influencing the treatment of people with prostate cancer.

She added: “It’s great to see that yet more people with prostate cancer could soon see benefit from this innovative research.”