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Common Prostate Cancer Treatment May Be Less Risky Than Thought

But Concerns About ADT Treatment Remain for Heart Patients
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Dec. 6, 2011 -- Just over a year ago the FDA warned that commonly used hormone-blocking treatments may increase the risk for fatal heart attacks in prostate cancer patients, but a new analysis finds these fears to be unfounded for most men.

The review, which appears this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found no difference in heart attack deaths and death from other heart and stroke-related causes between patients who took androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) and those who did not.

ADT treatment was associated with a lower overall risk of death from prostate cancer.

The analysis did not specifically look at groups of men with known heart disease, but the findings should reassure other prostate cancer patients who might benefit from hormone-blocking treatments, says researcher Paul L. Nguyen, MD, of Boston’s Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center.

“Our study found that for men with [high]-risk prostate cancer, this therapy saves lives,” Nguyen tells WebMD.

Health Groups Warn of Possible Risk

ADT in the form of a medication called GnRH agonist has been a mainstay of treatment for men with high-risk prostate cancer.

The treatment blocks the male hormones that fuel tumor growth. But a 2006 study first raised concerns about the safety of ADT, finding an increased risk for diabetes, heart attack, and death from heart-related causes in users.

Several more studies linking hormone-blocking therapy to heart risk in prostate cancer patients followed, but other studies have failed to show the association.

Last year, prior to the FDA warning, health groups -- including the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, and the American Urological Association -- issued a joint statement designed to alert doctors and patients about the therapy’s potential risks.

In the new review -- designed to examine the treatment’s safety -- Nguyen and colleagues analyzed data from eight clinical trials comparing patients who were treated with ADT to a group of patients that did not receive ADT for the treatment of high-risk prostate cancer.

The analysis included 2,200 patients treated with ADT and nearly 2,000 patients that did not take the treatment.

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