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Prostate cancer pill hope

12th October 2010

A new drug that could prolong the lives of patients suffering from advanced prostate cancer has shown promising results in early trials.

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The new pill boosts survival rates of men in the later stages of the disease, when traditional chemotherapy has not worked, and the cancer is still progressing.

Researchers believe that abiraterone acetate will extend the lives of sufferers by an extra four months.

It is possible that the drug could extend their lives by much more than that, but further trials will be needed.

Manufactured by Johnson & Johnson, the drug could give patients precious extra time to spend with loved ones.

It works by stopping the body’s production of the hormone testosterone, which encourages tumours to grow.

Patients who took the new drug along with steroids, which is the current treatment for advanced prostate cancer, lived for an average of 14.8 months, compared with just 10.9 months for the group on steroids alone.

Researchers presented their findings at the European Society for Medical Oncology Congress in Milan.

The study involved 1,195 men from 13 European countries, who were given abiratone acetate as soon as doctors established that other treatments were not working and that the cancer was still progressing.

The cost of the drug is not yet known. Patients in the UK may initially have to pay for it themselves, until guidelines for its use have been established by the NHS.

Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men and the second highest killer after lung cancer, with around 35,000 diagnoses annually in the UK alone, and 12,000 deaths.

Doctors refer to the aggressive and non-aggressive forms of the disease as ‘tiger’ and ‘pussycat’. 

'Pussycat' cancer can often be managed as part of a healthy lifestyle, but the ‘tiger’ variety usually causes death with 18 months, and makes up a third of total cases.


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