Could an 'Old School Drug' Prolong Prostate Cancer Patients' Lives?

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By Silvana Peters | June 2, 2014 4:24 PM EST

Combining a cheap, decades-old chemotherapy drug with a standard hormone therapy treatment early may contribute in extending the life of prostate cancer patients for over a year, according to a study.

Based on Boston Globe, Lead Author Dr. Christopher Sweeney of Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute cited "the results represented one of the biggest improvements ever seen in survival rates for adults with cancer that has spread widely from its original site."

The trial for the study, sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, included 790 patients that were divided into two groups with one group given the drug and the second omitted use. The findings showed by using the two treatments together could significantly improve survival. Those who received docetaxel, sold as Taxotere and in generic form, were able to live for an average of 58 months as opposed to 44 months for those who were not given the drug.

"This is one of the biggest improvements in survival we have seen in patients with adult solid metastatic tumors," Dr. Sweeney noted.

"Six cycles of docetaxel in addition to ADT [androgen deprivation therapy] represents an appropriate option for men with metastatic prostate cancer commencing ADT who are suitable for docetaxel therapy," Dr. Sweeney said as quoted by the Cancer Network .

"This is the first study to identify a strategy that prolongs survival in newly diagnosed metastatic prostate cancer. The benefit in patients with a high volume of metastatic disease is clear and justifies the treatment burden."

For men, prostate cancer is the most common illness. In the U.S. alone, 240,000 new cases are diagnosed annually. This study may contribute to the change in treatment plans as these not only provide a possibility for longer life but also generic docetaxel is estimated to cost about $1,500 or less per infusion, which is more affordable than other cancer drugs that cost over $100,000 for one round of treatment. The findings of the study were presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's annual conference in Chicago.

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