Strategy Might Thwart Resistance to a Common Prostate Cancer Treatment

Recommended by Dr. Michael White, Updated on October 25th, 2018

By Steven Reinberg HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 7, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Conventional wisdom has it that high levels of testosterone help prostate cancers grow.

However, a new, small study suggests that a treatment strategy called bipolar androgen therapy -- where patients alternate between low and high levels of testosterone -- might make prostate tumors more responsive to standard hormonal therapy.

As the researchers explained, the primary treatment for advanced prostate cancer is hormonal therapy, which lowers levels of testosterone to prevent the tumor from growing. But there's a problem: Prostate cancer cells inevitably overcome the therapy by increasing their ability to suck up any remaining testosterone in the body.

The new strategy forces the tumor to respond again to higher testosterone levels, helping to reverse its resistance to standard therapy, the researchers say.

If confirmed in several ongoing larger trials, "this could lead to a new treatment approach" for prostate cancers that have grown resistant to hormonal therapy, said lead researcher Dr. Michael Schweizer, an assistant professor of oncology at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle.

"It needs to be stressed that bipolar androgen therapy is not ready for adoption into routine clinical practice, since these studies have not been completed," he said.

The report was published Jan. 7 in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

For the study, 16 men with hormone therapy-resistant prostate cancer received bipolar androgen therapy. Of these patients, seven had their cancer go into remission. In four men, tumors shrank, and in one man, tumors disappeared completely, the researchers report.

Overall, "50 percent of patients had declines in their PSA [prostate specific antigen] and 50 percent had shrinkage of their cancer," Schweizer said. PSA levels are a standard signal of prostate cancer activity, as measured in a blood test.

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Strategy Might Thwart Resistance to a Common Prostate Cancer Treatment

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