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New Drug May Help Some Prostate Cancer Patients

Study found Xofigo also improved quality of life for those whose cancer had spread to the bones
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"In this study, their quality of life was improved, in addition to their longer survival," she noted.

The study included 921 men with prostate cancer that had spread to the bones but not other organs. All had received standard hormonal therapy and, in some cases, the chemotherapy drug docetaxel. (Some men were not healthy enough to receive the chemo, and others did not want it.)

About 600 men were randomly assigned to have injections of Xofigo, once a month for six months; the rest were given placebo injections and standard care, including more hormonal therapy or external radiation to try to treat the bone pain.

At the time the trial was stopped, 35 percent of the Xofigo group had died, versus 46 percent of the placebo group. One-quarter of men on the drug reported a "meaningful" improvement in their quality of life, compared with 16 percent of the placebo group.

There were side effects. Anywhere from 18 percent to 36 percent of men suffered nausea, diarrhea, constipation or fatigue; but most of those symptoms were just as common in the placebo group.

There were, though, more serious problems related to the body's ability to produce blood cells, which is handled by the bone marrow. Twelve percent of men on Xofigo developed thrombocytopenia, a drop in blood cells called platelets that can cause serious bleeding. That compared with 6 percent of the placebo group.

Another 5 percent of men on the drug developed neutropenia, a drop in the body's infection-fighting white blood cells.

For most men with prostate cancer, the tumor is slow-growing and never progresses to the point where it threatens their lives. According to the American Cancer Society, nearly all men with cancer confined to the prostate gland or nearby lymph nodes are still alive five years after their diagnosis -- and many can opt to delay having any treatment, and have the cancer monitored instead.

But the outlook is much more dim for men whose prostate cancer spreads to the bones or other distant sites. Only 28 percent are alive five years after their diagnosis.

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