There is new hope for the more than 30 percent of prostate cancer patients who will experience cancer recurrence after undergoing surgery to remove their prostate gland.
Prostate cancer cells need androgens (also known as male hormones) to grow, and, in order to function properly, androgens must bind to receptors in the prostate. Medications called antiandrogens can bind to these receptors to block the androgens. A new study from the Mass General Department of Radiation Oncology found that adding antiandrogen drugs to standard radiation therapy can improve the survival of patients facing post-surgery prostate cancer recurrence. Investigators believe that their findings will change the standard of care and provide new treatment options for patients experiencing a postoperative recurrence.
The clinical trial looked at 760 prostate cancer patients who had recurrent cancer after surgical removal of the prostate gland. Participants were randomly assigned to either receive an antiandrogen drug (bicalutamide) or a placebo for 24 months in addition to six and a half weeks of radiation therapy.
The long-term study found that adding antiandrogen drug therapy to radiation treatment reduced the death rate in a subset of prostate cancer patients by more than half. The group who received the combination treatment as part of the clinical trial were also 50 percent less likely to develop cancer in another area of the body. The treatment also didn’t seem to have negative side effects on the heart and liver.
Research is currently underway to test the effectiveness of newer antiandrogen drugs. Those trials started about five years ago so it will take some time to get their results.
William U. Shipley, MD, of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Department of Radiation Oncology, is lead author of this study.