Prostate cancer patients could be cured in as little as a week with new high-dose targeted radiotherapy.
In trials, tumours were wiped out within days with treatment times slashed from the standard one to two months.
The breakthrough could save the NHS millions. It comes after Sir Rod Stewart revealed he has beaten the disease.
One patient who took part in trials said: “It was a breeze – not something I’d usually associate with cancer treatment.” Developed by a UK team, it is the quickest form of the therapy to get this far in clinical trials.
The trial patient – named as Alfred, 84, diagnosed in 2013 – added: “I only had to go in five times over two weeks.
“I didn’t have many symptoms after and was able to get back to my life.” In trials led by the Royal Marsden Hospital in West London, patients were given extremely high doses of stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) beamed with sub-millimetre precision at tumours, cutting the risk of damaging healthy surrounding tissue which can lead to side effects.
Their tumours were wiped out in one to two weeks, compared with up to two months for standard radiotherapy.
The study split 850 patients into three groups given different radiotherapy doses. Three months after treatment, side effects for those on SBRT were no worse than for standard treatment.
They will be monitored for several years to find if they are truly cured. If continuing trials show humans can tolerate such high doses of radiation then SBRT could be offered on the NHS.
Co-author Dr Douglas Brand of the Institute of Cancer Research said: “It could be practice-changing.” Dr Nicholas van As of the Royal Marsden said: “Patients could be spared numerous visits to hospital, allowing them to get back to their lives sooner.”
Prostate cancer affects around one in eight men. Around 50,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, with 11,600 men dying from it annually.
Sir Rod urged men to get checked after revealing his three-year fight. The study will be unveiled at a meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology in Chicago today.