A prostate cancer drug, Lynparza, has been found that could prolong the lives of men with incurable cancer after success in a clinical trial.
Prostate cancer is a cancer that occurs in the prostate — a small walnut-shaped gland in men that produces the seminal fluid that transports sperm.
Cambridge-based pharmaceutical firm, AstraZeneca, has revealed its trial was going well and that it would present full results in the near future. It said it had achieved ‘progression-free survival’ in a phase three trial – one which uses real patients to compare a medicine’s effectiveness to the current standard.
They said Lynparza has hit its target of prolonging the lives of men with cancer who survived normal treatment.
Lynparza – the branded name of the drug olaparib – is being compared with two testosterone-blocking medications currently used by the NHS – abiraterone and enzalutamide.
Those drugs work by lowering levels of testosterone, the male sex hormone, which many prostate tumours thrive off.
Lynparza works by destroying the damaged DNA of cancer cells and killing them, and has already been approved around the world for treating ovarian cancer.
The developers of the medication said the drug was the only one to have worked in a field where ‘the need for new effective therapies is high’.
Lynparza works differently by targeting damaged DNA to kill tumours and is meant for men whose cancers have continued to grow and spread even when their testosterone levels are medically reduced.
This condition is called metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC).
It affects around 10 to 20 per cent of prostate cancer patients within five years of their diagnosis, AstraZeneca said – equal to between 4,000 and 10,000 men per year in the UK.
According to Mail Online, AstraZeneca is running the trial, named PROfound, alongside US pharmaceutical company MSD, known in the States as Merck.
Roy Baynes, MSD’s chief medical officer, said: “Metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer is a deadly disease and represents an area of critical unmet medical need. These results represent the potential for a new, oral targeted treatment option for this patient population.”
It has a high survival rate – more than eight in 10 patients survive for 10 years or more after their diagnosis – but still results in around 11,000 deaths each year.
Doctors may not even want to treat prostate cancer in its early stages, opting instead to monitor a tumour.
But if treatment is decided upon it can involve surgically removing the gland, using radiation to destroy the cancer or taking hormonal medication to starve the tumour of the testosterone it uses to grow.
For men with mCRPC – which doesn’t respond to other therapies and is eventually fatal – survival rates are much worse, with patients only living for one to two years on average.
Dr David Montgomery, director of research at Prostate Cancer UK said: “If the final results are as impressive as the early release implies, this could make a huge difference for men with advanced prostate cancer by giving them a brand new option for treatment.
He said: “It also has the potential to be the first ever precision medicine for prostate cancer, which uses genetic screening of the tumour to work out which men will benefit.”