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Taking Breaks From Prostate Cancer Hormone Therapy Seems Safe: Study
Date:9/5/2012

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Stop-and-start hormone-deprivation therapy for localized prostate cancer doesn't shorten overall survival compared to continuous treatments, and yields fewer side effects such as impotence and hot flashes, a large new study suggests.

A team of Canadian, British and American researchers found that intermittent hormone treatments -- which suppress circulating male hormones such as testosterone that "feed" prostate tumors -- don't increase the risk of disease progression. Intermittent treatment also doesn't increase the chances that patients whose prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels are slowly rising will eventually die from prostate cancer.

"There has been a lot of work [in this area] over the last two decades, so we figured there would be an improvement in quality of life and hoping there was no detriment to survival," said study author Dr. Juanita Crook, professor of radiation oncology at the University of British Columbia. "That was the one thing that was unknown, but our impression is that people are not dying sooner on intermittent therapy than continuous."

For the study, published Sept. 6 in the New England Journal of Medicine, nearly 1,400 patients whose localized prostate cancer was treated with surgery and/or radiation were split into two groups. One set received continuous hormone-deprivation therapy -- a mainstay treatment for prostate cancer that has spread -- while the rest were treated in eight-month cycles punctuated by months-long "breaks" depending on their PSA levels.

Slowly rising PSA levels may indicate the progression of prostate cancer, even if no evidence of the disease shows up on other tests such as MRI and CT scans. Study participants on stop-and-start hormone-deprivation treatments were placed back on therapy if their PSA scores grew to 10 or higher, or they experienced clinical symptoms of disea
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