Early use of drug leads to a drastic decrease in Prostate cancer - Dispatch Weekly

June 18, 2017 - Reading time: 4 minutes

The survival rate of those diagnosed with prostate cancer could significantly increase with the use of the drug Abiraterone in the early stages of the disease. Research led by Professor Nicholas James, from the University of Birmingham, showed that people using Abiraterone with additional hormone therapies had about a 30% higher chance of survival than those who only used hormone therapy.

What is Abiraterone?

Abiraterone works by preventing the spreading of testosterone. Halting the production of testosterone is essential because it stimulates the growth of prostate cancer cells. Abiraterone, also called Zytiga, specifically stops the production of an enzyme called cytochrome p17, which is needed in order for the body to produce testosterone. Without cytochrome p17 the body is no longer able to produce testosterone, preventing the cancer cells from growing.


Developments of Abiraterone

Abiraterone has been used in the past, however, the practice of using it early in the disease in conjunction with other hormone treatments was only recently introduced in the beginning of June and has led to the jump in survivors.

Up until recently Abiraterone was used for men with prostate cancer who’ve got relapsed disease that has spread to other parts of the body and have stopped responding to the standard first line hormone therapies. So the initial license was for men who had also received chemotherapy for their relapsed disease. In 2013 that was changed to allow it to be used upstream of chemotherapy or in men not ready to receive chemotherapy yet,” according to James.

However, as Professor David Dearnaley from the Royal Marsden Hospital states in a video raising awareness for of the study among patients “We thought that bringing Abiraterone earlier in the course of disease before it had begun a resisting to the initial hormone treatment that we might get a very good result.”

Photo credit Matthias Zomer
Photo credit Matthias Zomer


In this trial, James had half of the 1,917 participants taking the hormone therapy only, and the other half taking both the hormone therapy and the Abiraterone pills. Of those who did both treatments, 184 people died, 74 less than the 262 people that died with the hormone therapy alone.

Other benefits from the Abiraterone pills included a lowered PSA level and a lowered chance of relapse by 70%, as well as reduced chance of serious bone complications by 50%. However, there are some possible side effects which include (but are not limited to) high blood pressure, severe toxicity, and other side effects from the additional hormone therapies and the steroid administed along with the Abiraterone.  Since the drugs are used at the same time, it is difficult to determine what side effects occur because of Abiraterone alone.

Prostate Cancer

Currently, prostate cancer has a 16% mortality rate among those diagnosed. Affecting much of the population, statistics by the Prostate Cancer UK show that currently one in eight men in the United Kingdom will get prostate cancer at some point in their life. About 46,500 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in the UK per year and about 11,000 men die each year from it. The results of the Abiraterone test promise to lower these numbers and hopefully, develop future research in aid of those affected

DW Staff

David Lintott is the Editor-in-Chief, leading our team of talented freelance journalists. He specializes in covering culture, sport, and society. Originally from the decaying seaside town of Eastbourne, he attributes his insightful world-weariness to his roots in this unique setting.