by Hannah Furness
28 April 2012
men could have undergone painful surgery
to treat prostate
cancer for little or no benefit, a study has suggested.
New treatment for prostate cancer gives 'perfect results' for nine
in ten men: research
MRI showing prostate cancer in a 75 year old male. Photo: ALAMY
Research, which has not yet been
published, has indicated the standard surgical treatment did not
extend the life of cancer sufferers significantly any more than
results, reported by the Independent newspaper, are said to have
left experts “shaken” after showing the common treatment did not
necessarily improve lives.
One specialist, who did not want to be named, told them:
“The only rational response to these
results is, when presented with a patient with prostate cancer,
to do nothing.”
The Prostate Intervention Versus
Observation Trust (PIVOT), led by Timothy Wilt, began in 1993 with
731 subjects, following them over 12 years to monitor their health.
It compared cancer patients who had their prostate gland removed
with those monitored by “watchful waiting”, to establish how their
treatment affected survival rates.
It found those who underwent the operation had less than a three per
cent better chance of survival than those who had no treatment; a
figure which could have arisen by chance.
When the results of the study were reported at a meeting of 11,000
experts at the European Association of Urology in Paris, they were
met with “stunned silence”, the newspaper claimed.
Prostate cancer, which affects 37,000 men in the UK every year, is
the most common cancer suffered by men.
But despite causing 10,000 deaths per year, it is slow growing in
half of all cases, with sufferers often dying of another illness
before it becomes fatal.
The standard surgery, known as radical prostatectomy, carries risks
including impotence and incontinence.
Ben Challacombe, consultant urologist at Guys and St Thomas’ NHS
Trust, told the newspaper he did not agree the response to the
results should always be to "do nothing".
He said that for older, low-risk men, they would already,
"offer milder treatment such as
radiotherapy or watchful waiting" and added, "we are better than
the US in putting men on surveillance.”
Dr Kate Holmes, head of research at
Prostate Cancer Charity, said they were aware of the findings and
awaited the full published results.
“Early data from the PIVOT trial
certainly suggests that surgery to remove the prostate does not
provide any significant survival benefit for men with low to
medium risk prostate cancer.
“However, these findings are from a
large ongoing trial, and we look forward to seeing the full
published results which could help men in future to make more
informed decisions about treatment.
“This trial also highlights how important it is that research
into improved diagnosis, staging and treatment of prostate
cancer is sustained if we are to take treatment for the disease
to the next level.
“We have been working with existing methods for far too long and
it is vital that investment continues if we are to reduce the
number of men who die from this disease every year.”
The charity added around 250,000 men are
currently living with prostate cancer in the UK, with one man dying
from it every hour.