Giving Men a Break

Prostate cancer androgen therapy can be shortened from 36 months to 18 months

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Being treated for prostate cancer can be grueling. The side effects of therapy used to block hormones that feed the cancer definitely impact a man’s quality of life. Some relief is in sight, though.

The amount of time men need to take androgen therapy to treat prostate cancer may be cut in half without affecting survival. A new study has found that 18 months of treatment was just as effective as the current standard of 36 months.

As a result of this study, the authors concluded that the duration of treatment can safely be shortened without affecting a man’s lifespan.

"Find out about all of the cancer treatment side effects you can expect."

Abdenour Nabid, MD, Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Canada and associate professor at Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Sherbrooke in Canada, led the study involving more than 600 men.

“Shorter-term hormone therapy could have a big impact on the lives of men with prostate cancer, reducing the quantity and intensity of its unpleasant side effects as well as treatment costs,” Dr. Nabid said in a news release.

Hormone therapy, also known as androgen block therapy, is used to suppress male hormones, including testosterone. Men take the medications for 24 or 36 months.

The treatment causes a number of unpleasant physical mental and emotional side effects, which tend to get worse over time.

Men can suffer from a number of problems, including sexual problems, fatigue, weakness, breast tenderness, hot flashes, weight gain, loss of bone density and muscle mass, along with cognitive problems, depression and anxiety.

Dr. Nabid highlighted his study at a media briefing hosted by the American Society of Clinical Oncology at the fourth annual Genitourinary Cancers Symposium. He said of the side effects, “It is quite a very long list, and for most of our patients, these side effects makes life quite miserable.”

The objective of this study was to see if the treatment could be cut back to improve quality of life without affecting survival.

The 630 study members had high-risk prostate cancer that had not yet begun to spread. They were randomly assigned to receive androgen blocking therapy for either 36 months or 18 months before, during and after they had received radiation therapy.

Bicalutamide (brand names Casodex, Cosudex, Calutide, Kalumid) and goserelin (Zoladex) were used for the therapy.

Researchers found that after nearly 6.5 years of follow-up, about the same number of men were alive in each treatment group – 77.1 percent in the 36-month group and 76.2 percent of men in the 18 month group.

These trends persisted long term. Five-year survival rates were 92.1 percent for men who had 36 months of treatment and 86.3 percent for the men in the 18-month group. At 10 years, the survival rates were nearly exactly the same - 63.6 percent among the 36-month group and 63.2 percent among the 18-month group.

Abbreviated treatment did not increase a man’s likelihood of dying specifically from prostate cancer, the researchers found.

Dr. Nabid said, “For the benefit of the patients, we hope these results will convince doctors that they can stop hormone therapy after one and a half years instead of two to three years.”

This study was funded by AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, the maker of Zoladex and Casodex.

All research is considered preliminary before it is published in a peer-reviewed journal. The fourth annual Genitourinary Cancers Symposium is being held February 14-16, 2013 in Orlando, Florida.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 12, 2013
Last Updated:
February 13, 2013