A New Agent That Might Change the Lives of Many Cancer Patients

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This is not only good news for all prostate cancer patients, but is also good news for all cancer patients.

The investigational radiopharmaceutical radium-223 chloride (Alpharadin) has recently been shown to improve survival in patients with advanced prostate cancer and bone metastases. This agent could potentially be used in other cancer patients to extend their lives.

The beauty of this product is that it is highly targeted for bone metastases; so this product will be valuable for many different Stage IV cancers patients whose cancers have spread to bones.

Radium-223 chloride works by releasing minute, highly charged, targeted doses of radiation (alpha particles) that are highly lethal to cancer cancers but have a short penetration. This specific targeting delivers radiation to the bone metastases and minimizes the damage done elsewhere.

In the 2011 European Multidisciplinary Cancer Congress, investigators presented the results of Alpharadin in the phase 3 trial (ALSYMPCA) in prostate cancer.

The study involved 922 prostate cancer patients who were resistant to hormone treatment and who had developed 2 or more bone metastases. The results showed that the men, who received radium-223 chloride and standard treatment, lived significantly longer, with a median overall survival of 14 months, compared with 11.2 months (improved survival by nearly 3 months!).

The results were so striking that the study was terminated earlier. The investigators believed it would be unethical not to offer this active treatment to those taking placebo.

The US Food and Drug Administration have granted Fast Track approval for this compound and are currently reviewing the data.

If approved, this compound will likely be used with another promising agent, abiraterone (Zytiga), which has also been shown to improve survival.

Adverse effects associated with Radium-223 chloride are minor. They include mild nausea and occasional diarrhea, and there is a small effect on the bone marrow.

Beside Radium-223 chloride, other new compounds that have been shown to improve survival included docetaxel (Taxotere – 2.4 months), carbitaxel (Jevtana – 2.4 months), abiraterone (3.9 months) and immunotherapy sipuleucel-T (Provenge – 4.1 months).

If you have prostate cancer, be sure to ask your doctor about this promising agent. For other cancer patients, we might have to wait for the additional results of other trials before this agent can broadly be used.

Source: 2011 European Multidisciplinary Cancer Congress (EMCC)

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