NEW YORK, Oct. 13
Following recent FDA approvals for prostate cancer treatment medications from Dendreon and Sanofi-Aventis, a new study shows that the lives of men with advanced prostate cancer were prolonged almost four months on Abiraterone, a new medication from Johnson & Johnson. The drug, which could reach the market in 2011, is positive prostate cancer treatment news with the potential to change clinical practice by providing a new treatment option for aggressive prostate cancer. Dr. David Samadi, a robotic surgery expert who is the Vice Chairman, Department of Urology, and Chief of Robotics and Minimally Invasive Surgery at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, described the study, which was presented at the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) congress, “As yet another in a series of successful scientific steps towards fighting prostate cancer, a common, and sometimes deadly enemy.”
The study followed over 1,000 men with aggressive prostate cancer and poor prognoses, who had only been given months left to live. In this group, 797 were prescribed abiraterone acetate as well as prednisone, a steroid, while the rest were given prednisone and a placebo treatment for prostate cancer. Abiraterone, discovered by Britain’s Institute of Cancer Research, blocks the production of hormones that stimulate prostate cancer tumors. Abiraterone’s side effects include fluid retention and hypokalemia (low levels of potassium in the blood).
The study showed that Johnson & Johnson’s experimental drug not only delayed prostate cancer growth but also significantly increased the patients’ life expectancy by 36%, from 10.9 to 14.8 months. The risk of death among patients on the drug also dropped by 35%. “Sure, 3.9 months does not sound like a lot of time, but in terms of the scientific history of prostate cancer, previously only four drugs had ever proven a survival potential,” said Dr. Samadi, a robotic prostatectomy expert as well as a urologic oncologist with Mt. Sinai, “The discovery of this drug is even more significant because patients with the aggressive type of this disease have very limited prostate cancer treatment options and usually a terminal prognosis.”
Analysts compared abiraterone to Dendreon’s vaccine, Provenge, as “a nearly billion dollar opportunity” for Johnson & Johnson and “more compelling” than Sanofi-Aventis’ chemotherapy, Jevtana. The latter had been approved this past June for advanced prostate cancer treatment after a study showed prolonged survival of 2.4 months. The FDA approved Provenge in April of this year for treating prostate cancer. However, sales have been impacted by limited production, which should be resolved by mid-2011. Critics says Provenge’s hefty $93,000 price tag for three treatments is another sales hurdle though the company claims the price is comparable to other available treatments.
“It’s been a landmark year for prostate cancer news, where we are hopefully moving towards making prostate cancer a treatable disease that the patient can survive with a specific drug treatment plan,” said Dr. Samadi, “In fact, these drugs may not even be rivals, but viable prostate cancer treatment options that can be administered in a series to battle this disease.”