New therapy tied to 40% decrease in deaths among men with aggressive prostate cancer

An investigational treatment was linked to a 40 percent reduction in deaths among men with castration-resistant prostate cancer, compared to patients who only received the standard of care, according to trial findings published June 23 in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The study included 831 patients with the aggressive form of prostate cancer across 10 countries. Patients were followed for an average of 20 months. All participants had cancer that progressed despite prior treatment with chemotherapy and hormonal therapy. 

The drug, made by Novartis, works by relying on a radioactive molecule to target prostate-specific membrane antigen, a protein on the surface of cancer cells. Since the protein is mostly found on prostate cancer cells, the treatment causes less damage to surrounding tissue, experts said. 

"This is something new — you're driving radiation right to the cancer itself," Karen Knudsen, PhD, president and CEO of the American Cancer Society, told The New York Times. "It's a much more sophisticated strategy for targeting the tumor." 

After a median follow-up period of 20.9 months, patients who received the experimental therapy survived for a median of 15.3 months, compared to 11.3 months among those who received the standard of care, findings showed. 

Additionally, the risk of cancer progression among those who took the drug was reduced by 60 percent. 

"This is the first drug targeted to the tumor that actually results in overall survival benefit among incredibly, heavily pretreated patients," Oliver Sartor, MD, co-investigator on the trial and medical director of Tulane Cancer Center in New Orleans, told the Times

The trial was sponsored by Novartis companies. 

Later this year, Novartis will apply for FDA approval for the treatment.

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