September is recognized as National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month for good reason. Second only to skin cancer, prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers among men in the US. Research estimates that 1 in every 9 men is diagnosed with prostate cancer annually.
However, recent achievements in medical therapy are bringing significant help to many men experiencing even advanced prostate cancer. Most of these new medications focus on inhibiting the growth of cancerous tumors by cutting off the fuel they need to grow, sometimes for many years.
Because prostate cancer is usually diagnosed after age 55, these new medications, while not a cure, can have a very positive influence on the lives of men affected by this relatively common type of cancer. Here at Male Fertility Doc, board-certified urologist and prostate cancer specialist, Dr. Eric Seaman keeps abreast of the latest treatments, including these new drugs.
The basics of prostate cancer
The prostate is a small, walnut-shaped gland that lies just below the male urinary bladder in front of the rectum. It’s part of the reproductive system and is responsible for producing the fluid (semen) that nourishes and carries sperm during ejaculation.
Like other cancers, prostate cancer occurs as a result of abnormal growth triggered by mutations in a cell’s DNA. These abnormal growths (tumors) may remain within the prostate or spread (metastasize) to other areas of the body over time.
Treatments are most successful when these tumors are growing slowly and confined to the prostate gland. However, new therapies are showing promising results even when the cancer has advanced.
The link between prostate cancer and testosterone
Research indicates that cancerous prostate cells are fueled by testosterone. Medical researchers have focused much attention on blocking testosterone production in the hopes of effectively slowing the growth of cancerous tumors. Medications recently approved by the FDA can do that, and in many cases the effects can last for years.
New medications available for treating prostate cancer
The new medications available for treating prostate cancer are anti-androgen drugs, which bring your testosterone levels down. They can stop prostate cancer tumors from growing by starving the abnormal cells of the fuel they need.
These new medicines include:
- ErleadaⓇ (apalutamide)
- ZytigaⓇ (abiraterone acetate)
- XtandiⓇ (enzalutamide)
The medications inhibit testosterone production in different ways. Erleada and Xtandi, for instance, are androgen receptor inhibitors and work outside the cells. Zytiga slows production of androgens, including testosterone, inside the cells.
Research has shown these drugs can effectively delay cancerous tumor growth, in many cases by years. They were initially approved for treating prostate cancer only after other therapies had failed. However, the results were so effective that physicians can now use them early on and often in combination with other treatments.
If you have prostate cancer, it’s vital that your treating physician remains abreast of the ongoing advances in successful therapy. For more information on the latest treatments available, schedule a visit with Dr. Seaman. Call our office in Millburn, New Jersey, or book an appointment online.