New prostate cancer drug
Sun, 27th Jul 2008
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from the show Naked Science Questions and Answers
One of the biggest cancer stories in the news this week has been about abiraterone, a new drug that's currently being tested for prostate cancer. There was a lot of media interest on Wednesday, when researchers released the results of an early-stage clinical trial of the drug in men with aggressive prostate cancer whose cancer had come back after standard hormone treatment. The trial showed that the drug worked in up to 80% of the patients on the trial.
Obviously, this gathered a lot of media interest, with some stories claiming that the drug could save "10,000 lives a year" – the number of men who die from prostate cancer every year in the UK. Although the drug is very interesting, it's really important to realise that this was a very early stage trial and involved only 21 men. That's certainly not enough to warrant its general use in the clinic.
Abiraterone is now being tested in a much larger group of 1,200 prostate cancer patients, as part of an international trial. Only when we get the results of that will we know if it really is a safe and effective treatment. At the moment. It's too early to get over-excited.
However, Cancer Research UK is certainly watching the results with interest, as the charity was involved in the early stages of developing and testing abiraterone, and is also currently funding a small-scale trial to test the drug in women with breast cancer.