Birmingham & Black Country

Acid 'cuts prostate cancer patients' fractures'

Professor Nick James
Image caption The study was led by Professor Nick James at the University Hospitals Birmingham Trust

Doctors have found the use of an acid halves the rate that prostate cancer patients suffer severe bone fractures which can lead to paralysis.

The study, led by Professor Nick James at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, also found zoledronic acid halved the number of patients who suffered three or more fractures.

The findings were being presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago.

Currently the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) does not recommend zoledronic acid for prostate cancer patients, even though it has been licensed for 10 years.

Prof James hopes his team's findings will lead to a rethink by Nice on its decision to reject the bone hardening compound.

Break dancing

Nice claimed it could only re-evaluate a product if asked to do so by the Department of Health and it had not received any request.

The study, which involved 750 patients from 19 centres across the UK, took seven years to complete.

Prof James said end-stage prostate cancer attacks the bones and could lead to spinal cord compression and paralysis.

The primary treatment for prostate cancer is a hormone treatment which causes osteoporosis.

The study found 238 patients suffered fractures compared to 337 who did not have zoledronic acid and whereas 18 suffered three fractures without the drug, only five of those who took the drug had three breaks.

Image caption Hugh Gunn was diagnosed with severe prostate cancer but has not broken a bone

Prof James said: "It reduces by a half the rate at which our patients get the most serious bone complications like fracture of the spinal cord.

"It also reduces substantially by about a half the number of patients having three or more events and increased the number of patients who had no serious bone complications at all despite having very extensive bone disease."

Hugh Gunn, 67, was diagnosed with severe prostate cancer seven years ago, but has not broken a bone. Eighteen months ago he said he was break dancing at his daughter's wedding.

Mr Gunn, who receives zoledronic acid via intravenous drip, said it was wrong it was not generally prescribed to terminal prostate cancer patients.

He said: "Hormone therapy causes osteoporosis. Five years down the line you are going to get bones breaking or to put it simply you roll over in bed and break a hip.

"Putting people through that is positively medieval. It's really nasty and this is not an expensive drug."

The study was funded by the Health Technology Agency which is part of the NHS.

Prof James said it was funded specifically so it could be fed back to Nice.

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