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A 'drug holiday' decreases side-effects of prostate cancer treatment

Published on 06/09/2012

A ‘drug holiday’ can decrease side-effects of prostate cancer treatment without hastening death, according to Canadian researchers.

A new study, published in New England Journal of Medicine, showed that men with prostate cancer who were given intermittent courses of drugs lived as long as men who received continuous therapy, without as many of the unpleasant side effects.

Androgen-suppression therapy can cause hot flashes, impotence, growth of breast tissue, insomnia, worsening of diabetes, weight gain, loss of muscle mass and osteoporosis.

The study looked at nearly 1,400 men who had undergone treatment for prostate cancer and whose PSA levels had begun to rise again. All the men were given eight months of hormone therapy, with some randomly selected to receive intermittent treatment.

The men in the intermittent group were taken off the drug until their PSA levels reached threshold. For some, the ‘drug holiday’ lasted just six months, but others went drug-free for as long as five years.

Statistically, there was no significant difference in the number of deaths in the two groups, nor was there a significant difference in the median survival time.

Led by the NCIC Clinical Trials Group, a research arm of the Canadian Cancer Society, the study has prompted many doctors in Canada to adopt intermittent androgen suppression therapy for prostate cancer patient.

However, a companion study - which was presented recently to a major cancer research conference - found that for men with metastatic cancer, intermittent therapy did not have the same safety profile.

Scientists say that information in the improvement in quality of life for the intermittent group will be detailed in a separate scientific report.

© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2012

Categories:  Medical
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