Earlier Chemo Increased Prostate Cancer Survival

Prostate cancer survival and disease free progression improved by adding chemotherapy to androgen deprivation therapy

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Successful cancer treatment isn't always just about which medications are used, but also when those medications are given. New research has challenged a decades-old routine for treating prostate cancer.

Since the 1950s, men with newly-diagnosed prostate cancer that has already spread to other parts of the body have usually been treated with hormone-blocking therapy (ADT).

When ADT stops working, then patients may be given chemotherapy.

A research team tested their idea that giving chemotherapy with ADT might increase the time before the ADT therapy stopped working.

Their recently released findings showed that survival and time before the cancer got worse were better in men who received both ADT and chemotherapy as early treatments than in men who received ADT alone.

"Ask your oncologist about treatment options for prostate cancer."

This research was conducted by Christopher J. Sweeney, MBBS, of Dana Farber Cancer Institute, and colleagues.

For their study, Dr. Sweeney and team recruited 790 men who had just been diagnosed with prostate cancer that had spread to other parts of the body.

The men were given either ADT alone or ADT with chemotherapy. The chemotherapy drug used was docetaxel (brand name Taxotere) for 18 weeks.

The aim of this study was to see if men who received ADT and docetaxel lived longer and had a longer period before their cancer got worse than men treated with ADT alone.

After 29 months, 137 patients in the ADT group had died. In that same time period, 104 men who received ADT plus docetaxel had died.

The men who received ADT plus docetaxel lived an average of 57.6 months, compared to 44 months in the group who were given ADT treatment only.

There were 520 patients whose cancer had spread to major organs or their bones. In these patients, ADT plus docetaxel had an even greater effect. Men given both ADT and docetaxel lived 17 months longer than the men who were treated with ADT only.

Some patients experienced side effects from the treatments. The most common side effects were fever due to low white cell counts and weakness, numbness or pain due to nerve damage.

One patient in the study who was treated with both ADT and docetaxel died as a result of the treatment.

"This study shows that early chemotherapy increases the chances that certain patients with metastatic [cancer that has spread] prostate cancer have a longer time without symptoms from cancer, and also live longer," Dr. Sweeney said in a press statement.

This research was presented June 1 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago, Illinois.

Funding for the research was provided by Public Health Service Grants, the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Several authors of this study disclosed serving as consultants or advisors for Sanofi, makers of Taxotere, a branded version of docetaxel.

Review Date: 
June 5, 2014
Last Updated:
June 5, 2014