Health

prostate cancer, abiraterone, drugs

New Pill May Attack Untreatable Form of Prostate Cancer

July 25, 2008 08:51 AM
by Shannon Firth
A clinical trial for a cancer pill shows promise in the fight against prostate cancer. But do cancer “wonder drugs” really work?

30-Second Summary

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In a small study performed in London and published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, 21 men, whose prostate cancer was unresponsive to treatment, were given the drug abiraterone. Results from the study show the drug could help treat aggressive forms of prostate cancer in up to 80 percent of men.

The study tested men who, on average, had only about a year to live. Lead researcher Johann de Bono said that the drug shrank tumors, alleviated pain, and decreased PSAs—proteins that measure prostate cancer levels.

Red Orbit writer Lyndsay Moss calls the aggressive form of prostate cancer “almost always fatal,” but de Bono noted that some patients who have taken abiraterone for over two years are “still doing well.”

Abiraterone, according The Independent, acts by “switching off an oncogene”, a gene in cancer patients that codes other proteins, as well as shutting down testosterone production in all types of tissue, not just the testicles. Red Orbit reports that an international study of 1,200 men and a trial for women with breast cancer are both in progress.

Health writer Richard Smith is skeptical about the idea of a “wonder drug” for cancer, however. Smith explains that a phase 1 trial is “designed simply to find out if patients can tolerate the drug. So we might legitimately conclude that there is some evidence that the drug will act against the cancer, but we are a very long way from being able to conclude that it will save 10,000 lives a year.”

Headline Links: A new weapon against prostate cancer

Related Topic: Controversy over the release of Provenge

Opinion & Analysis: Critics of new prostate cancer study; ‘wonder drug’ unlikely

Reference: Prostate cancer

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