Adding radiation therapy to standard drug treatment can cut prostate cancer death rate by half, according to a new study.
Researchers said that the effects are so striking that radiotherapy combined with hormonal drug treatment should be the new standard for these patients, reports the Independent.
Potentially curative treatments for early, non-aggressive cancer include surgery to remove the prostate gland and targeted radiotherapy.
However, when the tumour is starting to break out and invade surrounding tissues, doctors consider that the horse has bolted. In these circumstances a strategy of containment rather than cure is adopted.
Hormone, or endocrine, therapy -which stops tumours being fuelled by testosterone is currently one of the most common ways of tackling locally advanced prostate cancer.
However, new findings suggest that survival can be dramatically improved if radiotherapy is used as well.
In the study, more than 800 men in Scandinavia were randomly allocated to receive radiotherapy with hormonal treatment or hormonal treatment alone.
Over ten years, almost one in four (23.9 per cent) of those who received the hormonal treatment alone had died compared with just over one in 10 11.9 per cent of those who had the two treatments combined - hormonal treatment with radiotherapy.
Recurrence of the cancer, defined by rising levels of the blood marker prostate specific antigen PSA, was nearly three times higher among patients only given hormone therapy.
However, side effects including urinary incontinence and impotence were slightly more frequent among the patients who had radiotherapy.
Led by Professor Anders Widmark, from Umea University in Sweden, the research team said that the significant superiority of the combined treatment and its similar side effects suggest it should be the new standard of care for these patients.
The study appears online in The Lancet.