It’s important news for men with early, low-risk prostate cancer. A study presented at the Genitourinary Cancers Symposium found that a drug can slow the growth of these tumours in men who opt to be monitored instead of having treatment right away.
This is the first time that a drug for treating enlarged prostates also has been shown to help treat prostate cancer in a rigorous study. Doctors say it may persuade more men to choose active surveillance, or “watchful waiting,” instead of rushing to have treatments that can leave them with urinary or sexual problems.
Doctors know that drugs that shrink the prostate — like Avodart and Proscar — can help prevent prostate cancer. But authorities recommended against taking them for this purpose because of potential risks, which include sexual problems.
The new study tested Avodart not to prevent cancer, but to prevent the progression of it in men who already have the disease. According to Dr. Neil Fleshner of Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, this may be a much better use of such drugs. Since the vast majority of these men are not destined to die from prostate cancer, he wanted to see if Avodart could make “watchful waiting” safer.
The study enrolled about 300 men with low-risk cancer. Prostate cancer got worse in 38 per cent of men taking Avodart and 49 per cent of those on dummy pills. Final biopsies showed no signs of cancer in 36 per cent of men on Avodart versus 23 per cent of those on dummy pills. Bottom line the drug can’t cure the cancer, but it can suppress it.