Health

Hormone Drugs May Boost Life Expectancy for Prostate Cancer Patients


Some prostate cancer patients may improve their long-term survival chances by receiving hormone suppression drugs such as Abbott Laboratories (ABT)’ Lupron and AstraZeneca Plc (AZN)’s Zoladex with radiation therapy, a study showed.

The research found that men who received radiation and the drugs, called androgen deprivation therapy, increased their survival rates a decade later to 62 percent compared with 57 percent for those who didn’t get the medicines. The risk of death from prostate cancer declined to 4 percent for patients with the combination treatment from 8 percent for those receiving radiation alone, according to the report released today by the New England Journal of Medicine.

While androgen deprivation therapy has been used since the 1990s with radiation, doctors didn’t know if it benefited all patients. The study found that four months of the medicines before and during radiation helped men with medium-risk cancer the most, said Christopher Jones, the lead author of the study.

"If you block the male hormones, you can slow the growth of prostate cells and prostate cancer cells," Jones, a radiation oncologist with Radiological Associates in Sacramento, California, said in a telephone interview.

Previous studies have shown hormone suppression causes side effects such as enlarged breasts, decreased muscle mass, reduced sexual drive, depression and high cholesterol.

FDA Review

Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it would review published studies about the safety of prescription medicines used for androgen deprivation therapy, which may increase the risk of diabetes, heart attack or death. The agency cited Zoladex from London-based AstraZeneca; Lupron from Abbott Park, Illinois-based Abbott, and its generic equivalents, Trelstar from Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc. (WPI) in Corona, California, and Vantas from Endo Pharmaceuticals Holdings Inc. (ENDP) in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.

Prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in men, according to the American Cancer Society. More than 240,000 men will be diagnosed with the disease this year, and it will lead to about 33,730 deaths, the organization said.

Today’s study from the National Cancer Institute followed about 2,000 prostate cancer patients for an average of 9.1 years.

The benefit from the hormone drugs and radiation "was mainly confined to the intermediate-risk patients," Jones said. "We found that if you didn’t get the androgen deprivation therapy, you had a 2 1/2-times higher risk of dying from prsotate cancer."

Flinn is a reporter for Bloomberg News.

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