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A new treatment for prostate cancer is being hailed as the biggest step forward in treating the disease in 70 years.
In a phase I clinical trial, 80% of patients treated with abiraterone showed significant improvement, including those with a form of the disease resistant to chemotherapy.
CT and MRI scans, and falls in the level of PSA – the blood marker used to test for prostate cancer – showed that most tumours, including those that had spread to the bone, had shrunk.
Some participants in the trial were able to cease their pain medication.
Abiraterone interferes with the production of testosterone – which is known to fuel prostate cancer – not just in the body, as previous drugs have done, but in the tumour itself.
Typical life expectancy following chemotherapy is no more than 18 months.
The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, gave abiraterone to 250 patients with advanced prostate cancer. Twenty one of these were found to have benefited significantly from the drug, and a proportion of these have already survived for more than twice the expected period.
A global trial of 1,200 is under way, and it is hoped that it will be licensed for use in across the EU in three years time.
Abiraterone is being developed by US company Cougar Biotechnology.