Advanced prostate cancer patients survived much longer on a combination of two types of drugs than if they took the standard single treatment, according to a major federally sponsored study reported by the Wall Street Journal
Researchers suggested the findings should change the way many men with advanced prostate cancer are treated.
The treatments involved hormone therapy to suppress levels of testosterone, which fuels prostate tumor growth, and the chemotherapy docetaxel. Conventional treatment involves starting men on testosterone suppression and then trying docetaxel chemotherapy once the cancer progressed, said lead researcher Christopher Sweeney, M.D., a medical oncologist at the Harvard-affiliated Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
But the new study, which involved 790 patients, found that 69 percent of men who started with the combination therapy were alive after three years, compared with 52.5 percent who were started on hormone therapy alone.
The findings were so striking that officials at the National Cancer Institute decided to release them early before a full analysis of the trial was completed. The NCI, part of the National Institutes of Health, funded the study.
"The data point was so strong and clear and accurate we feel confidence releasing this" for patients and clinicians to consider in treatment decisions, Dr. Sweeney said.
The interim analysis also showed that men whose cancer had spread to at least four different locations in bone or had spread to a major organ such as the liver were the most likely to benefit from the combination treatment, the NCI said.
Docetaxel, marketed as Taxotere by Sanofi SA, is also available in generic versions.
"The evidence is strong enough that I would offer [the combination] to my patients who have the high volume of disease and are eligible for docetaxel," Dr. Sweeney said.