It's a very good sign for a cancer drug when a clinical trial is shut down so that every participating patient can receive it. That's exactly what has happened with Johnson & Johnson's Zytiga.
Zytiga was approved last year for advanced prostate cancer patients who had already received chemo but whose cancer had still metastasized. Prostate cancer is usually treatable if caught early. Each year 200,000 men develop the cancer. If the cancer spreads it usually ends up in the bones where it is resistant to normal testosterone-blocking hormonal therapies.
However, Zytiga is a unique compound which penetrates the cancerous cells and shuts down its testosterone production, which quickly kills off the damaged cells and prevents their spread. Zytiga takes things a step further and also remains effective after the cancer metastasizes where other drugs loose their effectiveness.
A new study from the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center was presented yesterday at the American Society of Clincal Oncology's annual meeting in Chicago. This study showed that Zytiga can be used much earlier before metastasization with amazing results.
1088 prostate cancer patients in 12 countries were in the trial. Each man received a standard low-dose Prednisone treatment and half also received Zytiga and others a placebo. In the Zytiga group, the cancer progressed at only half the speed of the control group with patients reporting less pain and a noticeable delay before chemo was needed. As a result the trial was cancelled to allow every patient to use the drug.
Rodolfo Chavez, 83, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1997 and discovered it spread in 2006 calls this drug a miracle drug.
"After that first bottle, my pain went away and I just felt like my life was turning around. I'm still taking them. I'm on my 10th bottle and supposed to get another bottle today."
The FDA still has to approve Zytiga for earlier use and won't do so until next year after the study's final results are published.
The Tech-Stew Take Home
The implications of the success of Zytiga cannot be understated. Zytiga can have a role in a wide variety of cancer patients, which puts this drug in a class all its own. The study has shown it will work in untreated patients and there is research ongoing to look at using the drug in combination with standard hormonal therapies prior to things like prostate-removal surgery. The option of another treatment is important, this gives those with the disease hope where none could be had in the past, especially in the latter stages. This medication could also be viewed as a foundation drug that could be added to other medications to prolong survival even further.
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