Prostate cancer breakthrough: Daily pill could save thousands of lives

A new study found enzalutamide, a drug that works by blocking the effect of testosterone on prostate cancer cells, could improve the survival of some men with the disease. Source: Getty

A daily pill could provide extended survival time for thousands of men with advanced prostate cancer, new research suggests.

The international study, led by the Australian and New Zealand Urogenital and Prostate (ANZUP) Cancer Trials Group, found enzalutamide, a drug that works by blocking the effect of testosterone on prostate cancer cells, could improve the survival of some men with the disease.

The study, presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago, involved 1,125 men with advanced prostate cancer. They were all given an injection of testosterone-suppressing medicine, and either a daily enzalutamide pill or one of three standard treatments.

Researchers found that around 80 per cent of those in the study who received enzalutamide survived for at least three years, compared with 72 per cent of those who received the standard treatment.

Overall, the risk of death decreased by around a third (33 per cent) among men receiving enzalutamide, the researchers said. The details were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“Adding enzalutamide to testosterone suppression in men with mHSPC can give much better cancer control and much longer survival,” Christopher Sweeney, one of the lead researchers, said.

“This is true both for patients with high burden of disease, with multiple bone metastases or liver metastases, as well as men with a lower burden of disease. The new treatment option is especially relevant for men who cannot tolerate chemotherapy and have a lower burden of disease.”

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men worldwide. More than 3,100 Australian men die from prostate cancer each year, with one in five males risk developing prostate cancer by age 85.

Meanwhile, it comes after a new report revealed thousands of men with prostate cancer are choosing to have their disease monitored rather than have radical treatments such as surgery or radiotherapy.

The approach is called active surveillance — which is a way of monitoring prostate cancer that isn’t causing any symptoms or problems. Active surveillance is often recommended if the cancer detected is small, low-risk and unlikely to cause problems.

The findings, published in the 2018 annual report of the Movember Prostate Cancer Outcomes Registry – Australia and New Zealand (PCOR-ANZ), found that more than two thirds (69 per cent) of men diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer during 2015 to 2016 went on active surveillance.

What do you think? Have you ever been diagnosed with prostate cancer?

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