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Drug found to extend lives of prostate cancer patients

NEW ORLEANS — NEW ORLEANS - Two teams of researchers have found that a widely used breast cancer drug can prolong the lives of men with advanced prostate cancer, a disease so resistant to conventional therapies that doctors often have little to offer.

Dr. Daniel Petrylak of New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center focused on patients whose cancers had become resistant to hormone therapies, drugs that are sometimes capable of forcing tumors into retreat because they block the cancer-fueling properties of testosterone.

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In the new approach, Taxotere was administered with the drug estramustine to act on the molecular mechanisms that force cancers to spread. Taxotere was developed in the 1990s to treat breast cancer and also has been successful with non-small cell lung cancer, associated with smoking.

Petrylak said that the two-drug combination now should be considered a benchmark for future clinical trials. A key feature of the new therapy, administered to 334 men with advanced prostate cancer, was its tendency to quickly lower soaring levels of prostate specific antigen - PSA - the protein in blood that signifies prostate cancer's presence.

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Petrylak and his colleagues found that patients receiving the new regimen lived longer than the 332 men receiving conventional therapy. The Taxotere group lived an average of 18 months and the others an average of 16 months.

Last month the Food and Drug Administration approved the combination of Taxotere, made by Aventis, and prednisone, a steroid anti-inflammatory drug, for the treatment of advanced prostate cancer.

In a similar study presented at the meeting, Dr. Mario Eisenberger, a prostate cancer researcher at Johns Hopkins University, administered two different doses of Taxotere and prednisone to men with advanced prostate cancer and also showed that survival can be increased.

Newsday is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.


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