Archive for Wednesday, September 13, 2000

Radiation, drugs work early to fight prostate cancer

Harvard study finds combining treatments effective

September 13, 2000


— Prostate cancer patients whose disease has not spread fare significantly better if treated with a combination of radiation and hormone-blocking drugs than with radiation alone, a study suggests.

Similar results were found in a previous study comparing the two treatments in men with more advanced cancer.

The latest study, led by a Harvard Medical School researcher and published in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association, involved 1,586 men whose cancer had not spread beyond the prostate gland.

The men were treated between 1989 and 1999 with either traditional external beam radiation or radiation plus six months of drugs that block production of male hormones that can stimulate cancer growth.

The researchers compared the two approaches by measuring levels of a blood protein called prostate-specific antigen for years after treatment. Elevated PSA levels can suggest the presence of cancer, researchers indicated.

There was no statistical difference among low-risk men, or those who had slow-growing tumors and very low PSA levels at the outset.

Intermediate-risk men and high-risk men who received both treatments had a fivefold and nearly threefold reduction in risk for unfavorable PSA levels five years after treatment, respectively.

"While further research is needed, it appears that the one-two punch of radiation therapy and androgen suppression therapy may be a more effective treatment in the battle against both advanced-stage and early-stage prostate cancer," said Dr. Anthony V. D'Amico, who led the study.


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