TUESDAY, Jan. 24 (HealthDay News) -- New research suggests that Avodart, a drug used to treat an enlarged prostate gland, may help slow the progression of early stage prostate cancer, reducing the need for aggressive treatment in some men.
Prostate cancer can grow and spread slowly, which is why some men are urged to engage in so-called watchful waiting when the cancer is first diagnosed. Avodart (dutasteride) may help such men feel comfortable with surveillance as opposed to radical treatment, the researchers noted.
"The concept of active surveillance is gaining traction in most parts of the world," said study author Dr. Neil E. Fleshner, head of the division of urology at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. Still, some men are uncomfortable with doing nothing in the face of a cancer diagnosis, he said. "By using this drug, we can improve the proportion of men who remain committed to the surveillance."
The findings are published online Jan. 25 in The Lancet.
According to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, one out of every six men in the United States will develop prostate cancer in his lifetime. But because many of those cancers are low-grade, most will die of something else.
Avodart belongs to a class of drugs called 5-alpha reductase inhibitors. These drugs work by interfering with the effects of certain male hormones on the prostate. In the three-year study, prostate cancer progressed in 38 percent of 144 men with early prostate cancer who were treated with Avodart and 48 percent of the 145 men who received a placebo.
Men seem less anxious about the cancer diagnosis when they are doing something more proactive, Fleshner said. "The drug augments active surveillance and avoids most of the side effects associated with surgery and radiation," he said. Prostate removal surgery and/or radiation can lead to impotence and incontinence, he said.<
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