Prevention of cancer using chemotherapeutics is a challenging area for research. A recent article published this week in Discovery Medicine by Professor Jennifer Davis from the Department of Clinical Cancer Prevention at The University of Texas highlights that there have been numerous chemoprevention trials in the past 10 years, but the number of approved chemoprevention drugs is still quite small, due to lingering issues revealed in these drugs’ trials.
Case in point: although finasteride, a chemotherapeutic drug used for the treatment of benign prostrate hyperplasia, showed significant effects in the prevention of prostate cancer, early concerns were raised that it could increase the risk of men being diagnosed with high-grade prostate cancer. As a result the FDA did not approve its use as a chemopreventative agent.
New results from a clinical trial, published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine by Dr. Ian Thompson, Director of Cancer Therapy and Research at the University of Texas Health Science Center, revealed that there was no difference in the overall survival between men taking finasteride or a placebo drug.
This study, carried out over seven years and conducted on 18,880 healthy patients, revealed that the risk of prostate cancer was reduced by about one third. Analysis of data from this study and over the previous 18 years revealed that there was no decrease in mortality in the study group who had taken finasteride compared to placebo drugs. Moreover, it was suggested that any increase in the rate of detection of higher grade cancers was a result of the ability of finasteride to shrink the prostate gland made the detection more likely.
Dr. Thompson suggested that the use of finasteride in chemoprevention could save thousands of men from undergoing unnecessary treatment.