By Dr Heather Payne.
The launch of abiraterone acetate is encouraging news for patients with metastatic advanced prostate cancer and their families. Historically there have been few treatment options for advanced prostate cancer when it relapses after hormonal therapy and chemotherapy and so this new treatment has the potential to meet a significant and previously unmet need. Abiraterone is a tablet that has been shown to be well tolerated. In a large clinical trial it was found that men taking abiraterone in combination with a steroid had an average increase in survival of around 5 months compared to those men taking a placebo (a dummy pill) plus a steroid. Some men also achieved significant improvements in pain.
This is the latest in a range of new treatment options now available to men with progressive advanced prostate cancer such as new chemotherapy and immunotherapy techniques. In the last few years there has been significant progress made with continued investment into cancer research which bodes well for greater survival rates and a better quality of life for these men in the future.
NB: Dr Payne was involved in the clinical trials of abiraterone – comparing the drug with dummy pills. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) are currently assessing whether to approve the medication for use on the NHS. A decision from NICE is expected in May 2012.