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New drug helps men with advanced prostate cancer to live longer

SALT LAKE CITY – A new drug is helping men suffering from one of the deadliest forms of cancer live longer, a Huntsman Cancer Institute doctor said.

Advanced prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men, just behind lung cancer. According to Dr. Neeraj Agarwal, a professor of medicine, physician and investigator at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, less than 30% of men will survive after five years when prostate cancer spreads to other parts of the world. body.

But a new drug called apalutamide could change that.

The TITAN trial, which began in 2015, studied the safety and effectiveness of the drug. It targets the proteins that fuel cancer cells in men with advanced prostate cancer, said Agarwal.

"So you are essentially attacking a protein that allows the prostate cancer cell to multiply, metastasize and progress to different parts of the body," said Agarwal. He participated in the study since his planning phase.

Researchers treated with apalutamide found a 33% reduction in the risk of death and 52% in the risk of illness. Side effects caused by the drug were well tolerated, said Agarwal.

The drug also delays the progression of the disease and the need for chemotherapy.

During the clinical trial – which involved more than 1,000 participants with newly diagnosed prostate cancer – some were treated with apalutamide and standard cancer treatment, while that others have only received a standard treatment.

After the "rigorous" trial, researchers learned this year that men treated with apalutamide "lived much longer" compared to those receiving only standard treatment, said Agarwal.

Patients receiving placebo have now been allowed to switch to the actual medication, according to the doctor.

Noting the progress made by doctors in cancer research, Agarwal said the results were not so surprising.

"The beauty of clinical trials, the most interesting part of clinical trials today, is that we do not really think of unknown chemicals … and hope for a good result. Clinics use these drugs that are very intelligently designed inside these labs after unveiling the key molecular factors of cancer progression. "

After recognizing the drivers, doctors can create a drug to target them.

"Contrary to what it was 10 or 15 years ago, when clinical trials used relatively unclear molecules, the results of clinical trials were previously less certain.Now you know that you are reaching the right target." , did he declare.

The drug was approved a few months ago for a "very small patient population" among patients with advanced prostate cancer, Agarwal said. But the results of the TITAN trial could make the drug available to hundreds of thousands of other men in the world.

Apalutamide is awaiting approval from the US Food and Drug Administration for its use in people with newly diagnosed advanced prostate cancer. Agarwal expects this to happen before the end of the year.

The results of the test were also important because the doctors will not need a state-of-the-art infrastructure to prescribe the drug. Doctors working in small towns, far from large cancer centers, can prescribe it.

"The beauty of this oral pill is that it is easy to prescribe and take, and that side effects are not more than what you see with standard therapy right now," said Agarwal. "I call these advances paradigm-advancing."

"It's a real step forward, as it allows my patients and patients around the world to take a bottle of oral pills from their doctor, go home and take the drugs themselves," he said. he added.

Agarwal said it was a "matter of pride" for him that the Huntsman Cancer Center played a big role in studying a drug that "is so well tolerated, improving lives and improving health. a quality of life ".

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