A New Prostate Cancer Drug, Denosumab, Targets the Bones

by on March 7th, 2015
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Background: The prostate is a small gland that surrounds part of the urethra in men. It is also the site of the most common cancer among older American men. Prostate cancer begins when cells in the prostate grow out of control, dividing rapidly to produce one or more tumors. In early stages, the disease often produces no symptoms, but later on it may cause problems passing urine, painful urination, other urinary problems or pain in the back or hips. Although the exact cause is not known, several risk factors have been identified, including being over 65, having a family history of the disease, being African American, or having changes in certain genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, which are the same genes associated with increased breast cancer risk in women.

Bone Involvement: If prostate cancer advances to later stages, malignant cells may spread to other tissues. At Stage IV, the highest level of staging, the tumor cells have spread beyond the tissues near the prostate. Sometimes this includes the bones, where metastesized cancer cells interfere with normal bone cells, weakening the strength of bone tissue. The result can be bone fractures and other serious problems. In addition, men who have spread of the cancer to their bones often have poor outcomes and may not do well long term.

The New Drug: Recent findings with a new drug called denosumab may give new hope to prostate cancer patients with bone involvement. In a study involving 1,400 men with prostate cancer whoses tumors had not yet spread to their bones, half the men received denosumab while the other half got a placebo. Those who received denosumab had about four months longer without any bone involvement than the placebo group. Although this still needs further study, the lead researcher, Dr. Matthew Smith from Harvard Medical School, concluded that this drug has great potential for slowing progression of prostate cancer. Denosumab was just approved in September, 2011, by the FDA as a treatment to increase bone mass in prostate cancer patients who have not yet experienced spread of cancer to their bones. Read more details about the drug and the study at the Prostate Cancer Foundation . *
*as published on Examiner.com


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