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Oregon-based prostate cancer pill study is generating excitement, few side effects

Oregonian (Portland, OR)


Oct. 28--A new prostate cancer drug spearheaded by Oregon researchers appears to extend life for advanced prostate cancer patients -- so much so that even researchers who didn't participate are excited.

The drug enzalutimide was approved for prostate cancer under the name Xtandi more than a year ago. But it's authorized only for very late-in-life patients.

In the latest study, however, the drug was tested on people who still hadn't gone through chemotherapy, and had an estimated three years to live.

Dr. Charles Ryan, an associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, says "these are some of the most impressive clinical trial results that we've seen with any drug".

The drug extended life and also lowered the likelihood of death by 30 percent at any one time, according to the human trial. The study was conducted on more than 1,700 patients in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, Russia, and Japan, among other countries.

So far the drug is only shown to slow the disease, not cure it, said Dr. Tomasz Beer, deputy director of the Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Science University who has spearheaded the study, adding that for some people its disease-hampering effect is visible right away, and the drug has few side effects, taken as a pill at home:"I have a lot patients on this drug and I see benefits to those people all the time.

Last week an independent scientific group overseeing the study said the results were so promising they recommended researchers shift people who'd been on a placebo to go over to the drug.

Beer called the announcement of the study's success "The most impactful of my professional life ... this is what you dream of when you enter clinical trials research."

He said the study confirms the prostate research is moving in the right direction, showing that there's more to be done that could pay off in better than 30-percent survival rates in the future.

Ryan works on testing competitive drugs that he says have similar promise. But even better, taking two or three of these drugs at the same time could provide a cumulative effect that further improves results.

Not only that, only 45 percent of people who die of prostate cancer actually undergo chemotherapy, because some don't want to undergo it's debilitating side effects, and some older patients are too vulnerable to even try.

"Overall, for men with advance prostate cancer, we are in a time of incredible progress," Ryan said.

--Nick Budnick


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