And What Else Is New

December 20, 2010
Mike Toner

CURE, Winter 2010, Volume 9, Issue 4

New developments in the treatment and management of prostate cancer.

Side effects of statins: Cholesterol-lowering statins, which reduce systemic inflammation, may also play a role in slowing the progression of prostate cancer. A Duke University Medical Center study of 236 men has found that men who took statins prior to prostate surgery had a 69 percent lower risk of intra-tumor inflammation, which is thought to contribute to the recurrence of cancer after surgery. Researchers say more studies are needed before recommending statins to slow post-surgical prostate cancer progression, but they say it is possible that widespread use of statins—by 11 million to 30 million people, according to some estimates—may account, in part, for the recent decline in the rate of deaths from prostate cancer.

Undermining cancer’s defenses: Phase 3 clinical trials of a new “antisense” compound designed to wreak genetic havoc on cancer cell defenses are under way this year at 50 cancer centers worldwide. The developer, OncoGenex Pharmaceuticals, says phase 2 trials show that custirsen (OGX-011) inhibits the production of a protein that helps cancer cells develop resistance to chemotherapy. Used in combination with Taxotere (docetaxel), which is the current first-line treatment for hormone-refractory prostate cancer, custirsen reportedly increased patient survival from 16.9 months to 23.8 months. A total of 300 men are being recruited for trial.

Fighting bone mass loss: An injectable treatment to reduce bone loss and injury in patients with solid tumors, including prostate cancer, that have spread to the bone was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in November. Although initially approved to reduce the risk of fractures from osteoporosis in women, the FDA agreed that Xgeva (denosumab), given at four-week intervals, decreased skeletal-related events when compared to Zometa (zolendronic acid). The FDA approved the drug in June for treatment of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women at high risk for fractures.

Targeting metastasis: A genetic test that could distinguish between aggressive prostate cancer in need of urgent treatment from less dangerous, slower growing tumors may be a little closer. Researchers at Harvard University Brigham and Women’s Hospital have identified the genetic pathway by which a single enzyme becomes a key driver in the cascade of events called metastasis, by which cancer spreads from the prostate to other parts of the body. The new research has encouraged work at several laboratories on ways to inhibit the gene that regulates production of the enzyme EZH2.