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Prostate cancer drugs may extend survival

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, looming as a specter for many as they grow older. So far, this week’s headlines about prostate cancer research have been fairly positive, with results from two trials showing promise for extending survival among men with late-stage forms of the cancer. Here’s a look at the latest developments:

One new drug appears to extend survival for men with a late-stage prostate cancer that attacks the bones. Bayer announced Monday that men who added the radiation-emitting compound Alpharadin to standard care lived a median of 14 months, compared to 11.2 months for men who did not. Men in the study had castration-resistant prostate cancer, which continues to grow even after testosterone levels are lowered, and which often spreads to the bones and causes disability or death.

The trial was even halted early so the men in the group containing the placebo could receive the drug as well. As this Reuters article points out, the drug is one of a several such treatments currently in development.

Another drug, Zytiga (abiraterone), was shown to extend survival in patients with castration-resistant prostate cancer slightly longer than was previously thought.

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The pill was approved in April after early results from a clinical trial indicated men on a Zytiga regimen survived a median of 14.8 months compared to 10.9 months. Now, the data indicate 15.8 months versus 11.2 months.

All progress is welcome. And although it’s worth noting that both drugs simply suggest a bit more time at the end of life -- they don’t, as yet, change the course of the disease -- the developments are part of a trend in prostate cancer research.

As the Fierce Biotech blog notes, such research has been “a hot field.”

Last year, more than 200,000 new cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed and 32,000 men died from the disease, estimates the National Cancer Institute.

RELATED: New drug offers last-ditch hope for prostate cancer patients.

healthkey@tribune.com

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