Study: Dutasteride Helps Men Undergoing Active Surveillance for Prostate Cancer
Article date: April 3, 2012By Stacy Simon
Researchers in the U.S. and Canada have found that men with low-risk prostate cancer who took the drug dutasteride (Avodart) had lower rates of their cancer worsening than men who didn’t take the drug.
The researchers followed 302 men for 3 years. Half of them took dutasteride and half did not. At the end of the study period, 38% of men in the dutasteride group had prostate cancer progression, compared to 48% of the control group. The men in the study were all had low risk prostate cancer and were being followed with active surveillance, which means they were monitored closely through tests that included PSA blood tests, digital rectal exams and biopsies. Active surveillance, rather than active treatment, is often recommended for men whose cancer is growing slowly, because their cancer may never cause them harm.
The study was published March 24, 2012 in The Lancet.
Dutasteride is often prescribed to treat an enlarged prostate. It’s a 5 alpha-reductase inhibitor, a kind of drug that works by lowering the body's level of the male hormone DHT. Because male hormones spur prostate cancer growth, lowering them may lower a man's risk of developing the disease.
Some drugs used to treat prostate cancer can cause side effects that include impotence or decreased sex drive. In the study, there was no significant difference in side effects between the two groups. However, patients in the dutasteride group reported significantly lower anxiety than the control group related to their prostate cancer, and they had less fear their cancer would get worse.
The researchers concluded that dutasteride could help men undergoing active surveillance delay the worsening of their cancer, which would delay their need to begin aggressive treatment. However, studies in men without prostate cancer have suggested that 5 alpha-reductase inhibitors like dutasteride may actually encourage the growth of a higher-risk cancer. Researchers are still watching the men in these studies to see if this had an effect on how long the men live.
Reviewed by: Members of the ACS Medical Content Staff