TUESDAY, Feb. 12 (HealthDay News) -- For some men with prostate cancer, hormonal therapy to beat the disease could be safely cut from three years to half that time, a new clinical trial suggests.
When men have cancer that is confined to the prostate gland but at high risk of worsening, one treatment option is radiation therapy plus drugs that cut testosterone levels, because this male hormone feeds the cancer.
Right now, doctors routinely give that hormonal therapy for two to three years, during which time men may suffer unpleasant side effects.
But that routine is based on a clinical trial from the 1990s that found that adding three years of hormonal therapy to radiation could cure certain prostate cancers. That doesn't necessarily mean three years is ideal.
"We're still trying to figure out what duration of therapy is best," said Dr. Bruce Roth, an oncologist and professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
Because hormonal therapy has significant side effects -- from erectile dysfunction and hot flashes, to drops in bone density and muscle mass -- everyone would like the treatment period to be as short as possible.
That's what led to the new study, which Dr. Abdenour Nabid, an associate professor at Sherbrooke University Hospital in Canada, is presenting Thursday at the annual Genitourinary Cancers Symposium in Orlando, Fla. "These side effects can be huge for men," Nabid said.
In the study, Nabid's team randomly assigned 630 prostate cancer patients to one of two groups. One group received radiation plus testosterone-lowering medication for three years; the other got hormonal therapy for just 18 months.
Overall, there were no signs that the shorter therapy put men's lives at risk. After 6.5 years, 77 percent of the men who got three years of hormonal therapy were still alive as were 76 percent of those who r
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