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Hormone Therapy Not Helpful For All Prostate Cancer Patients

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Wednesday, September 24, 2008 12:58 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: FDA & Prescription Drugs, Prostate Cancer, Hormone Therapy, Brachytherapy Treatment


IMAGE SOURCE: © Wikimedia Commons/ Created by US government agency National Cancer Institute

Hormone therapy may not work as effectively in all prostate cancer patients, according to a newly released study.

Hormone therapy, which works by blocking the output of testosterone that fuels prostate tumors, is a key treatment for patients with an advanced form of the disease.

Earlier studies have shown it improves survival rates in men with aggressive prostate cancer.

Amy Dosoretz, M.D., lead author of the study and a resident in the Harvard Radiation Oncology Program says, “There is no evidence showing hormones help patients with “low-risk” or slow-growing tumors.”

The study included 1,700 male patients over the age of 70 diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer.

Researchers found that patients’ who received hormone therapy prior to brachytherapy treatment, increased their risk of death by 20 percent, compared directly to the other patients who only received radiation therapy.

Brachytherapy is a procedure where the doctor implants tiny permanent radioactive seeds into the prostate where they irradiate the cancer from inside the gland.

After five years, 19.1 percent of those patients given hormones died, compared to 16.6 percent of those who did not get hormones.

Hormone therapy did not increase the risk of death in men who are younger than 70, says Dosoretz.

The men received hormones for 3 to 3½ months. Patients were not randomly assigned to one treatment over the other, rather, doctors observed how men given each treatment fared.

Two previous studies on this topic have shown conflicting results, Dosoretz says. One study found hormonal treatment increased the risk of death, while the other did not.

Patients and doctors need to weigh the benefits and risks of therapy carefully. Patients with early stage tumors, the elderly and those patients with other health problems – such as heart disease – may be more harmed, rather than helped by hormone therapy, said Grace Lu-Yao, PhD, MPH, an associate professor at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

The study was presented at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO) annual meeting in Boston, Massachusetts on September 21, 2008.

In another recent study, experts advise against regular prostate cancer screenings in men 75 and older, saying the risks far outweigh the benefits for men in that age group, according to a new report published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. #

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