New medicine to slow the progression of prostate cancer

New medicine to slow the progression of prostate cancer

Recent studies conducted by scientists discover new effects of medications that slow the progression of prostate cancer in the late stages.

How long can you live now with prostate cancer?

According to statistics, 11.6% of men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lifetime. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2018, 164,690 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and about 29,430 of them will die from the advancement of the disease. Due to continued studies and improvements in treatments, life expectancy with prostate cancer has grown over the year. Survival rates, when including all stages of prostate cancer, are:

  • 5- year relative survival rate – 99%
  • 10-year relative survival rate – 98%
  • 15-year relative survival rate – 96%

These statistics mean that, when discovered and first treated, 99% of patients lived at least for the next 5 years after completion of treatment, 98% lived for at least 10 years and 96% for the next 15+ years.

Survival rates are affected by the localization of the prostate cancer (local – in the prostate, regional – spread from the prostate to nearby areas, distant – spread to the bones, lymph nodes or other organs), overall health, age and race.

Patients can live up to two years longer with hormone suppressing medicine

Most prostate cancer patients have a high success rate after treatment, with their PSA levels shrinking considerably. Although there is always a risk of the disease returning, most men won’t have recurrences. However, there is a small part of the population (about 150,000 men worldwide) that reports a freezing of the prostate cancer in its current after treatment stage and that doesn’t seem to be affected by further hormonal suppressing medications. Unfortunately, a fraction of these cases will develop into an advanced, full-blown cancer that will ultimately be incurable and fatal.

New research presented at American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual Genitourinary Cancers Symposium, held in San Francisco, shines light on medicine that could increase the life expectancy of these patients with up to two years.

The study was performed by two independent teams that worked with approximately 2600 volunteering patients around the globe, whose cancers had not metastasized or spread, but still presented the risk of this happening. They were already undergoing hormonal therapy that suppressed their level of testosterone, which is known to be a factor in encouraging the growth of prostate cancer. The research studied the effects of two drugs. One group received by random distribution either a placebo or enzalutamide, also knows as Xtandi, which is a drug already approved by the FDA to treat metastatic prostate cancer. The other was divided between patients receiving placebo or apalutamide, which is a new experimental therapy.

According to Mail Online Health News, scientists have found that 806 out of 1207 men that were in the drugs receiving groups and took 240mg a day for ten months, succeeded in delaying the spread of cancer by an average of 40.5 months. The placebo group had only 17.7 months and 16.2 months, respectively, before the prostate cancer metastasized.

The findings of the research are encouraging for patients that received medication, as it was shown that their life expectancy and quality of life had considerably improved, as opposed to the placebo receivers. As such, patients who received the drug apalutamide lived an average of 40 months before the cancer metastasized or they died, while patients under the enzalutamide medication had an increased median length of 36 months until the disease reappeared.

The medication works as an enhancement of the chemical castration (the testosterone inhibitor), by blocking the receptors from the cancer cells that absorb the hormone. The treatment will prove to be of great use for the 2-8% of men worldwide that suffer from this form of non-metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer.

In the case of both drugs, the risk of patients developing more severe forms of prostate cancer in the short term was reduced by around 70 percent. Fortunately, the side effects were of mild severity (fatigue, fainting, hypertension), most of the patients reporting that their lives was, overall, similar to the one they lead before treatments.

Apalutamide is a Johnson and Johnson experimental drug which is waiting for approval from the Food and Drugs Association, while enzalutamide or Xtandi (made by Pfizer and Astellas Pharma),  is waiting for its use to be expanded by the FDA. The fortunate results of these trials might make way for other drug companies to start testing similar and, hopefully, cheaper drugs, available to a larger mass of population.

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