Prostate cancer breakthrough at The Royal Marsden could safely cut radiotherapy treatment time by 75%

Results from the ‘practice-changing’ PACE-B clinical trial showed that men with prostate cancer that has not yet spread, can be treated with 96% effectiveness in under two weeks.

The trial – led by Medical Director and Consultant Clinical Oncologist at The Royal Marsden, Professor Nicholas van As – found that people whose prostate cancer had not spread can be treated with just five sessions of higher-dose stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT), compared to conventional radiotherapy. For some patients, this could mean a reduction in treatment times from 48 weeks, to two weeks or less. 

Currently, patients undergo 20 to 39 conventional radiotherapy sessions which uses moderate radiation doses over a longer period. The PACE-B trial has shown that SBRT performed as well as conventional radiotherapy treatment, with 96% of patients remaining cancer free after five years, compared to 95% for patients treated with conventional radiotherapy. 

A smartly-dressed Royal Marsden doctor with a lanyard, standing next to a large white machine with a robotic arm

Targeting tumours with pinpoint accuracy 

Stereotactic body radiotherapy SBRT can be delivered on a standard radiotherapy machine or a CyberKnife. It allows clinicians to target tumours to sub-millimetre precision, using advanced imaging and treatment planning techniques. This delivers a higher dose of radiation with pinpoint accuracy and minimises damage to surrounding healthy tissue. 

A quicker, smarter, and kinder prostate cancer treatment 

Headshot of a Royal Marsden doctor in a shirt and tie, wearing a purple lanyard
Professor Nicholas van As

“To be able to sit with a patient and say, ‘We can treat you with a low toxicity treatment in five days, and your chance of keeping the cancer at bay for five years is 96%,’ is a very positive conversation to have.” says Chief Investigator Professor Nicholas van As.

“Standard radiation treatment is already highly effective and is very well tolerated in people with localised prostate cancer, but for a healthcare system and for patients, to have this treatment delivered just as effectively in five days as opposed to four weeks is hugely significant.” 

“We expect our trial to be practice-changing and people with intermediate risk prostate cancer should be given the option of SBRT as an alternative to conventional radiation or prostate surgery.” 

Quicker treatments will mean people can get back to their normal lives faster, and have fewer visits to hospital while offering extremely high rates of success and no increased risk of side effects compared to conventional radiotherapy.  

"I still find it unbelievable that I finished my treatment in five days" 

Alistair Kennedy-Rose, 64, from the West Midlands, is one of the almost 900 participants who took part in the PACE-B trial. Alistair was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2014 at his local hospital following a blood test. He was referred to The Royal Marsden, where he was recruited to the PACE-B trial and treated with SBRT on the CyberKnife, a machine which was funded by The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. 

Two people dressed up smartly, smiling together
Alistair and his partner Jayne

“When I was diagnosed I had no symptoms at all, so it came as quite a shock” says Alistair. “There can be a lot of anxiety following a cancer diagnosis, but just 10 days after I was referred to The Royal Marsden, I started SBRT. I still find it unbelievable that five days later, I finished my treatment – for something as serious as a cancer diagnosis it was incredibly easy. I haven’t had any side effects and I’ve been able to live my life to the full. I can’t thank The Royal Marsden enough for what they have done for me.”  

Your support means researchers at The Royal Marsden can make breakthroughs like this.  

PACE is the first global randomised trial of its kind and is part of an umbrella of trials supported by funding from The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. Supporters of The Royal Marsden Charity also funded the two CyberKnife radiotherapy machines at The Royal Marsden, used to deliver SBRT treatment.  

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