A London hospital’s trial of a prostate cancer drug has been stopped early because it was so successful doctors felt it would be “unethical” to deny the treatment to other patients.Medics halted tests of the life-extending drug because it would have been “unethical” not to offer the treatment to all 922 cancer sufferers taking part in the trial.
Patients who were given the drug found that it eased pain and caused only minor side effects.
The new drug accurately targets tumours using alpha radiation, which doctors conducting the study said is the most effective form of radiation to eliminate cancer because it limits damage to surrounding tissue.
Dr Chris Parker, lead researcher on the project at the Royal Marsden Hospital, said: “It’s more damaging. It takes one, two, three hits to kill a cancer cell compared with thousands of hits for beta particles.”
The drug, Radium-223 Chloride – known as Alpharadin TM – will also do less damage to surrounding tissue because it accurately targets calls, the doctors said.
Speaking at an international gathering of cancer experts, Dr Parker, a consultant clinical oncologist, said: “They have such a tiny range, a few millionths of a metre. So we can be sure that the damage is being done where it should be.”
Patients taking the drug has a 30 per cent lower rate of death compared top patients taking a placebo pill.
“It would have been unethical not to offer the active treatment to those taking placebo,” Dr. Parker said.
Radium-223 has “a completely different safety profile” to chemotherapy, he added.
The trial’s results were presented this week at the 2011 European Multidisciplinary Cancer Congress in Stockholm.
The researchers, who have pointed out the urgent need for an effective treatment for prostate cancer, will now submit their findings for approval by regulators.
Prof Gillies McKenna, Cancer Research UK’s radiotherapy expert said: “This appears to be an important study using a highly targeted form of radiation to treat prostate cancer that has spread to the bones.”
“This research looks very promising and could be an important addition to approaches available to treat secondary tumours – and should be investigated further.”