The researchers reckon that existing hormone drugs, such as Zoladex, may benefit more than 10,000 of the 31,000 men diagnosed with prostate cancer every year. They also say that the treatment may also benefit men whose cancer has spread outside the prostate gland.
They carried out a systematic analysis of four major trials involving more than 3,000 prostate cancer sufferers, many of whom were treated with Zoladex for three to four years after their initial radiotherapy or surgery. It was found that hormone therapy could control the disease for so many years that a patient could be regarded as cured.
The investigators say that hormone drugs help reduce levels of the male sex hormone testosterone, which in turn contains the cancer's growth.
Published in the medical journal Prostate Cancer and Prostatic Diseases, the latest review revealed that men treated with Zoladex had almost the same risk of dying as those without the disease.
"This exciting data provides evidence that adjuvant therapy with Zoladex can consistently allow patients to outlive their disease. It essentially provides a cure for a substantial number of men with locally advanced prostate cancer. These men have the type of disease that is likely to recur after initial treatment because microscopic cells have spread to the lymph nodes or bones," the Daily Mail quoted the study's lead author, Dr Heather Payne, as saying.
"This review is fantastic news because I can now advise a patient that he's getting a treatment that will help stop the cancer from coming back. It's not going to cure every man but a substantial proportion will not die from the disease as a result," added Dr. Payne, a consultant oncologist at University College Hospital in London.
According to Dr Payne, the side effects of the drugs ranged from hot flushes to sexual dysfunction.
"However, it is a well-tolerated treatment and we know how to minimise these effects. They tend to disappear after men stop using the drug," she said.
The new results have been hailed by Dr Chris Hiley of the Prostate Cancer Charity.
"This study is useful because doctors are prescribing this drug more widely than ever before and doctors can be reassured that its use is beneficial in prolonging life," he said.
"However, these results could mean that more men will be offered the drug for longer periods of time, so we would want to ensure that support and information services work well for the men who may have to endure side-effects," he added.