Prostate Cancer: Hope For Prolonged Survival In Older Men

Older men with aggressive prostate cancer may have the odds in their favor if they use a combination of therapy, a new study suggests.

According to the study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the combination of radiation therapy and hormone therapy, or androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), reduced prostate cancer-related deaths by almost half in men aged 76 to 85 years compared to men treated with hormone therapy, or ADT, alone.

Other studies have shown 40 percent of men over the age of 75 typically only receive hormone therapy when they have aggressive prostate cancer.

The lead author of the study suggesting a combination of radiation and hormone therapy, Justin E. Bekelman, M.D., is an assistant professor of Radiation Oncology, Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine and Abramson Cancer Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He believes all men should have the option of a curative treatment option regardless of age.

“Too many elderly men with potentially curable locally advanced prostate cancer receive hormone therapy alone. But hormone therapy is not a curative treatment. So, men and their doctors need to carefully consider the proven survival benefits of options like radiation and hormone therapy as they make treatment decisions. Age alone should not preclude a man with aggressive prostate cancer from receiving effective care treatment.”

There have been clinical trials for younger men with prostate cancer which have shown the benefits of radiation and hormone therapy in curative cancer care, but until now there have been no real studies for older men with the disease, according to Oncology Nurse Advisor.

The research team in Pennsylvania compared the mix of radiation and hormone therapy to hormone therapy by itself among 31,541 men with prostate cancer. The men were between the ages of 65-years to 85-years-old.

The study claims to show a reduction in prostate cancer deaths by 49 percent with the combination therapy among men ages 76 to 85 years. Among men ages 65 to 75 years, a reduction in prostate cancer deaths of 57 percent occurred with the combination therapy.

The study has also shown the side effects of radiation in combination of hormone therapy for prostate cancer are acceptable in comparison to hormone therapy alone.

“This study is important because it brings needed attention to the effectiveness of cancer treatments for the elderly,” Bekelman said.

“Men with aggressive prostate cancer regardless of age — whether they are in their 50s, 60s, 70s, or 80s — should know that radiation with hormone therapy saves lives and is tolerable.”