New approach to radiotherapy which cuts the length of treatment from eight weeks to five days. Picture: File

London - Prostate cancer patients are set to benefit from a radical new approach to radiotherapy which cuts the length of treatment from eight weeks to five days.

Traditionally, radiotherapy is given over 39 days – requiring men to go to hospital every weekday for nearly two months.

But doctors have conducted a trial that delivers far more powerful beams of precisely targeted radiation in only five sessions.

The early results of the study, published yesterday in the Lancet medical journal, found that it was ‘promising’ in curing prostate cancer and that the side effects were no worse than with the current treatment.

The trial involving 847 men with prostate cancer was carried out by experts at The Royal Marsden Hospital and The Institute of Cancer Research in London.

Around half of the men were given the current standard radiotherapy of 39 treatments over eight weeks or 20 doses over four weeks. The others received five doses of the higher-strength radiation – called SBRT – over one or two weeks.

Scientists will now monitor the men for five years to see whether the five-day course is as effective at defeating prostate cancer as the longer treatment.

Study author Dr Douglas Brand, from The Institute of Cancer Research, said: "The new results from our clinical trial have shown that a much shorter course of higher-dose radiotherapy does not increase short-term side effects compared with the current standard of care. If the data on longer-term side effects and efficacy are also positive, we expect our trial could be practice-changing.

"This would enable us to deliver curative treatment over fewer days, meaning that men would get the same benefit from their radiotherapy while having to spend less time in hospital."

Alfred, 84, one of the patients to have the new treatment, said: "I only had to go into The Royal Marsden five times over two weeks.

"I was made very comfortable and overall – not something I’d usually associate with cancer treatment – it was a breeze. I didn’t have many symptoms afterwards and was able to get back to my life. In the six years since, I’ve not had to have any further treatment."

The treatment is a highly effective way to tackle the disease, particularly if it is given at an early stage, when it permanently eradicates 60 percent of tumours. But it can involve long-term side effects, including impotence, bowel problems and even bladder cancer.

Daily Mail