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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

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Amy Norton

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, July 17 (HealthDay News) -- A newly approved drug that emits radioactive particles can help extend the lives of certain men with advanced prostate cancer, a clinical trial finds.

Experts said the results, published in the July 18 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, offer some good news for men whose cancer has migrated to the bones -- a common and painful feature of advanced prostate cancer.

The drug, which is marketed as Xofigo, is intended for men with cancer that has spread to the bones despite standard treatment to cut the body's levels of testosterone -- the "male" hormone that fuels prostate cancer growth.

Known generically as radium-223, the drug emits radioactive particles that zero in on cancerous tissue in the bones. In the new study, researchers found that men given Xofigo had a lower death rate and better quality of life than those on standard treatment only.

Xofigo is already on the market in the United States, after getting an expedited approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in May. That was based on findings from the current trial, which was designed and funded by drug makers Bayer and Algeta.

The study was supposed to last three years, but it was stopped early when interim results showed that men on the drug had a clear survival advantage.

Those patients typically survived for 15 months, versus 11 months among men who received an inactive placebo in addition to standard treatment.

That "might not sound like very much," said lead researcher Dr. Christopher Parker, of Royal Marsden Hospital in the United Kingdom. "On the other hand, this represents a 30 percent improvement in survival in a group of patients who had a very poor prognosis."

More important, the extra time tended to be better-quality time, said a cancer specialist who was not involved in the research.

If a cancer therapy gives people more months of life, but those months are filled with debilitating treatment side effects, then the longer survival may not be worth it, said Dr. Neha Vapiwala, a radiation oncologist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

"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.

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