Expanding the Prostate Cancer Fight

Prostate cancer targeted therapies expanding

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

(RxWiki News) Androgens are sometimes called the "male hormones."  They contribute to a man's sexual functions and are associated with secondary characteristics like chest and facial hair.

The most common androgen is testosterone. Getting this hormone under control may help control prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer needs androgens - including testosterone - to develop, grow and multiply. New classes of drugs targeting these hormones could be an effective, low-side-effect treatment alternatives for prostate cancer.

"Discuss prostate cancer screening with your doctor."

A recent review in the British Journal of Urology International describes the emerging drug therapies.

“What we realized is that production of androgens like testosterone depends on an intact system in which the brain recognizes hormone levels, signals the pituitary to increase or decrease production, and the pituitary in turn sets the testes in motion," said E. David Crawford, MD, investigator at the University of Colorado Cancer Center and a co-author of the review.

He continued, "Additionally, by targeting the production of androgens by the testes, we could break that system at many other points.”

The review looks at the history of pharmacological approaches, including estrogen and luteinizing hormone releasing hormones or LHRHs, that interrupted the flow of communication and thus disrupted the process. These drugs had serious side effects, though.

Another class that currently shows potential are LHRH antagonists, such as enzalutamide (formerly known as MDV3100). These drugs immediately drop testosterone levels. Prostate cancer cells go after these androgen antagonists first, and then can't get to the testosterone.

Also new on the scene are drugs called androgen biosynthesis that block androgen production from all sources, including the testes, adrenals and the cancer itself.

The first of this class to gain U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval in April 2011 was Zytiga (abiraterone).

In an email to dailyRx, Dr. Crawford summarizes these developments, "Testosterone is the key regulator of the prostate cancer cell. All of these new agents work to block the production or action of testosterone. This is an exciting time in the therapy of prostate cancer management." 

“As these new drugs make their way from the lab to clinic, we expect the ability to offer androgen antagonists to patients whose cancers have resisted other treatments,” U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Dr. Crawford has a financial relationship with enzalutamide manufacturers Medivation Inc. and Astellas Pharma Inc., which are currently seeking priority FDA review of the drug.

No funding information was available to the public.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 9, 2012
Last Updated:
July 10, 2012