NHS England is widening access to a form of chemotherapy shown in clinical trials to extend survival in advanced prostate cancer by more than a year.

Patients will now be able to get treatment with docetaxel as soon as they are diagnosed with incurable prostate cancer, rather than having to wait until it was determined that existing, hormone-based treatments had stopped working, as per previous National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines.

The move follows the outcome of two randomised clinical trials published last year which found that, compared to androgen deprivation therapy alone, adding docetaxel to treatment improved overall survival by up to 15 months.

More than 38,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer and more than 9,000 men die from the disease every year in England. At diagnosis, around 4,560 of cases are advanced, or metastatic. There is no cure, but hormone therapy can keep it under control, sometimes for several years.

“Rigorous new evidence shows that this drug brings significant benefits for patients with advanced prostate cancer. So working closely with patient groups and cancer specialists, NHS England is now pleased to be fast-tracking its wider availability,” said NHS England’s Director of Specialised Services, Jonathan Fielden.

“This fast-track response to new evidence indicates what can be achieved when there is the will in the system,” said Angela Culhane, chief executive at Prostate Cancer UK, welcoming the news. “It must set a precedent for other treatments that demonstrate clear clinical benefit when used in different ways”.

The policy, which has been developed by NHS England’s Clinical Reference Group for Chemotherapy with support from clinicians and patient representatives, will be reviewed later in the year in line with all policies approved outside of the annual specialised commissioning prioritisation process.