Biochemical Recurrence And Hormone Therapy
Hormone therapy is the standard of care for patients with metastatic prostate cancer, but for patients whose only sign of cancer recurrence is a rising PSA level , the benefits are less clear.
Some doctors think that hormone therapy works better if its started as soon as possible, even if a man is not having any symptoms. Other doctors feel that, because of the side effects of hormone therapy and the chance that the cancer could become resistant to the therapy, treatment shouldnt be started until symptoms develop. This issue is being actively studied.
The Future Of Hormone Therapy For Prostate Cancer
Some experts aren’t sure how much further we can improve hormone therapy for prostate cancer.
“I’m not saying that we’ve reached the end of what we can do with hormonal therapy,” Thrasher tells WebMD, “but there are only so many ways to shut down the hormonal effects. The cancer will still eventually escape.”
Brooks argues that, overall, prostate cancer is only moderately affected by hormones. “You can only do so much manipulating the levels of hormones,” says Brooks. “We have to find better ways to fight the basis of the cancer cells.”
Thrasher and Brooks have more hope that the next breakthroughs will come with different approaches, like chemotherapy or vaccines.
But Holden remains optimistic about the future of hormone therapy for prostate cancer.
“Cancer cells eventually figure out how to survive, how to overcome a specific hormone therapy,” he says. “But if we have enough types of drugs and can keep changing the hormone therapy, we might be able to keep the cancer cells in a state of confusion. We could change therapies before they have a chance to adapt.”
“It’s like an endless chess game,” he says. “You may not ever win, but you might be able to prolong the game indefinitely. I think that hormone therapy still has a lot of promise. We just need to develop better anti-androgens, and more varieties of them.”
What Kinds Of Medical Information Should I Keep
It is important for you to keep a copy of your prostate cancer treatment records. You may not always see the same doctor for your follow-up care, so having this information to share with another doctor can be very helpful. The following is a list of medical information you may want to keep.
Remember, you have the right to copies of all your medical paperwork and the actual slides, x-rays and any other information about your health care and treatment. A good idea would be to create two copies of your medical information and keep them in folders. Keep one folder at home and take the other one with you to your doctors appointments. Whenever you see a new doctor, it is important for you to let them know about your prostate cancer and any treatment that you have had.
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Hormone Therapy For Prostate Cancer
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Hormone therapy is also called androgen suppression therapy. The goal is to reduce levels of male hormones, called androgens, in the body, or to stop them from fueling prostate cancer cells.
Androgens stimulate prostate cancer cells to grow. The main androgens in the body are testosterone and dihydrotestosterone . Most androgens are made by the testicles, but the adrenal glands as well as the prostate cancer itself, can also make a fair amount.
Lowering androgen levels or stopping them from getting into prostate cancer cells often makes prostate cancers shrink or grow more slowly for a time. But hormone therapy alone does not cure prostate cancer.
Evidence For Combining Hormone Therapy And Radiation Treatment
Bolla M, Collette L, Blank L, et al. Long-Term Results with Immediate Androgen Suppression and External Irradiation in Patients with Locally Advanced Prostate Cancer : A Phase III Randomised Trial. Lancet 2002 360:1036. PMID: 12126818.
Bolla M, Gonzalez D, Warde P, et al. Improved Survival in Patients with Locally Advanced Prostate Cancer Treated with Radiotherapy and Goserelin. New England Journal of Medicine 1997 337:295300. PMID: 9233866.
DAmico AV, Schultz D, Loffredo M, et al. Biochemical Outcome Following External Beam Radiation Therapy With or Without Androgen Suppression Therapy for Clinically Localized Prostate Cancer. Journal of the American Medical Association 2000 284:12803. PMID: 10979115.
DAmico AV, Manola J, Loffredo M, et al. Six-Month Androgen Suppression Plus Radiation Therapy Versus Radiation Therapy Alone for Patients with Clinically Localized Prostate Cancer: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of the American Medical Association 2004 292:8217. PMID: 15315996.
Denham JW, Steigler A, Lamb DS, et al. Short-Term Androgen Deprivation and Radiotherapy for Locally Advanced Prostate Cancer: Results from the Trans-Tasman Radiation Oncology Group 96.01 Randomised Controlled Trial. Lancet Oncology 2005 6:84150. PMID: 16257791.
Nesslinger NJ, Sahota RA, Stone B, et al. Standard Treatments Induce Antigen-Specific Immune Responses in Prostate Cancer. Clinical Cancer Research 2007 13:1493502. PMID: 17332294.
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When Hormone Therapy Stops Working
After some months or years, hormone treatment usually stops working and the cancer starts to grow again. Your doctor might recommend stopping or changing hormone treatment at this stage.
If you’re having anti androgens and your PSA level has started to rise again your doctor might ask you to stop taking them. In some cases, this can cause the cancer to shrink and stop growing for some time. This is called anti androgen withdrawal response.
There are different treatment options for when hormone therapy stops working. This includes chemotherapy and steroids.
What Type Of Hormone Therapy Works Best
Unfortunately, understanding the details of hormone therapy for prostate cancer can be difficult. Which drug or combination of drugs works best? In what order should they be tried? Research hasn’t answered these questions yet.
“Right now, there’s a level of art to figuring out which agents to use,” says Durado Brooks, MD, MPH, director of prostate cancer programs at the American Cancer Society. “We don’t have clear evidence yet.”
LHRH agonists remain the usual first treatment. But in some cases, doctors are trying anti-androgens first. Anti-androgens may be especially appealing to younger men who are still sexually active, since these drugs don’t completely shut down sex drive. When anti-androgens stop working — based on PSA tests — a person then might shift onto an LHRH agonist.
Other doctors prefer to begin therapy with a combination of two or even three drugs, especially for patients with symptoms or advanced disease, says Holden.
Researchers originally hoped that combined androgen blockade would significantly add to the benefits of LHRH agonists. However, the results, to date, have been mixed. Some studies have shown slightly longer survival with combined androgen blockade, but the results haven’t been as dramatic as many experts had hoped. Other studies have shown no benefit. A possible explanation may be the type of anti-androgen used, but further studies are needed to answer this question.
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Hormone Therapy Can Cause Side Effects
Because hormone therapy blocks your bodys ability to produce hormones or interferes with how hormones behave, it can cause unwanted side effects. The side effects you have will depend on the type of hormone therapy you receive and how your body responds to it. People respond differently to the same treatment, so not everyone gets the same side effects. Some side effects also differ if you are a man or a woman.
Some common side effects for men who receive hormone therapy for prostate cancer include:
Cancer That Is Thought To Still Be In Or Around The Prostate
If the cancer is still thought to be just in the area of the prostate, a second attempt to cure it might be possible.
After radiation therapy: If your first treatment was radiation, treatment options might include cryotherapy or radical prostatectomy, but when these treatments are done after radiation, they carry a higher risk for side effects such as incontinence. Having radiation therapy again is usually not an option because of the increased potential for serious side effects, although in some cases brachytherapy may be an option as a second treatment after external radiation.
Sometimes it might not be clear exactly where the remaining cancer is in the body. If the only sign of cancer recurrence is a rising PSA level , another option for some men might be active surveillance instead of active treatment. Prostate cancer often grows slowly, so even if it does come back, it might not cause problems for many years, at which time further treatment could then be considered.
Factors such as how quickly the PSA is going up and the original Gleason score of the cancer can help predict how soon the cancer might show up in distant parts of the body and cause problems. If the PSA is going up very quickly, some doctors might recommend that you start treatment even before the cancer can be seen on tests or causes symptoms.
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What Are Male Sex Hormones
Androgens are required for normal growth and function of the prostate, a gland in the male reproductive system that helps make semen. Androgens are also necessary for prostate cancers to grow. Androgens promote the growth of both normal and cancerous prostate cells by binding to and activating the androgen receptor, a protein that is expressed in prostate cells . Once activated, the androgen receptor stimulates the expression of specific genes that cause prostate cells to grow .
Almost all testosterone is produced in the testicles a small amount is produced by the adrenal glands. Although prostate cells do not normally make testosterone, some prostate cancer cells acquire the ability to do so .
Why Does Hormone Therapy Worsen Some Prostate Cancers
Hormone therapy for prostate cancer does not always work the tumor can become resistant and continue to spread. Now, new research reveals how the therapy alters the environment of tumor cells to make this happen.
Scientists at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA, suggest that their study could lead to a simple blood test to identify prostate cancer cases that are likely to become resistant and aggressive if they are treated with hormone therapy.
They report their findings in a study paper that now features in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
The cancer begins when cells in the prostate grow out of control and form a tumor. It arises mostly in men aged 65 and older and rarely before the age of 40.
What Kinds Of Medicines Can Be Used To Lower My Testosterone
There are several types of medicines you can take to lower the amount of testosterone in your body. These are temporary ways to lower the amount of testosterone. When you stop taking these medicines, your testosterone level will begin to go up.
LHRH is a normal human hormone that tells your body to make testosterone. An LHRH agonist is a man-made hormone similar to the one made naturally in your body. LHRH agonists work like a light switch to shut off the production of testosterone in your body. When you are given this medicine, your body will stop making the LHRH hormone and your testicles will stop making testosterone. When you are first given this medicine, your body will continue to make testosterone for a couple of weeks. This means that your testosterone level may go up for a week or two and then begin to drop. This type of medicine works as well as having an orchiectomy . These medicines are given either monthly or every three months in a shot . The medicine may also be placed as small implants under your skin. The implant gives you a steady dose of medicine. Depending on the type of implant the medicine may last from one to 12 months.
Anti-androgens act like a brick wall. They block the small amount of testosterone made in your adrenal glands from reaching your prostate cancer cells. This keeps your prostate cancer cells from growing. These medicines are pills that are taken orally one to three times a day.
Checking Your Hormone Therapy Is Working
You have regular blood tests to check the level of a protein called prostate specific antigen . PSA is a protein made by both normal and cancerous prostate cells. It is in the blood in small amounts in all men, unless you have had the prostate gland completely removed.
While the hormone therapy is working, the level of PSA should stay stable or may go down. But if prostate cancer starts to grow and develop, the level of PSA may go up. This is hormone resistant prostate cancer or castrate resistant prostate cancer. Then your doctor may need to change your treatment. They will discuss this with you
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Survival Rates For Prostate Cancer
Survival rates can give you an idea of what percentage of people with the same type and stage of cancer are still alive a certain amount of time after they were diagnosed. These rates cant tell you how long you will live, but they may help give you a better understanding of how likely it is that your treatment will be successful.
Keep in mind that survival rates are estimates and are often based on previous outcomes of large numbers of people who had a specific cancer, but they cant predict what will happen in any particular persons case. These statistics can be confusing and may lead you to have more questions. Talk with your doctor about how these numbers may apply to you, as he or she is familiar with your situation.
Treatment To Lower Testicular Androgen Levels
Androgen deprivation therapy, also called ADT, uses surgery or medicines to lower the levels of androgens made in the testicles.
Even though this is a type of surgery, its main effect is as a form of hormone therapy. In this operation, the surgeon removes the testicles, where most of the androgens are made. This causes most prostate cancers to stop growing or shrink for a time.
This is done as an outpatient procedure. It is probably the least expensive and simplest form of hormone therapy. But unlike some of the other treatments, it is permanent, and many men have trouble accepting the removal of their testicles. Because of this, they may choose treatment with drugs that lower hormone levels instead.
Some men having this surgery are concerned about how it will look afterward. If wanted, artificial testicles that look much like normal ones can be inserted into the scrotum.
Luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone agonists are drugs that lower the amount of testosterone made by the testicles. Treatment with these drugs is sometimes called medical castration because they lower androgen levels just as well as orchiectomy.
With these drugs, the testicles stay in place, but they will shrink over time, and they may even become too small to feel.
- Leuprolide mesylate
Possible side effects
Many side effects of hormone therapy can be prevented or treated. For example:
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What Types Of Hormone Therapy Are Used For Prostate Cancer
- reducing androgen production by the testicles
- blocking the action of androgens throughout the body
- block androgen production throughout the body
Treatments that reduce androgen production by the testicles are the most commonly used hormone therapies for prostate cancer and the first type of hormone therapy that most men with prostate cancer receive. This form of hormone therapy includes:
Treatments that block the action of androgens in the body are typically used when ADT stops working. Such treatments include:
Treatments that block the production of androgens throughout the body include:
What Is Intermittent Adt
Researchers have investigated whether a technique called intermittent androgen deprivation can delay the development of hormone resistance. With intermittent androgen deprivation, hormone therapy is given in cycles with breaks between drug administrations, rather than continuously. An additional potential benefit of this approach is that the temporary break from the side effects of hormone therapy may improve a mans quality of life.
Randomized clinical trials have shown similar overall survival with continuous ADT or intermittent ADT among men with metastatic or recurrent prostate cancer, with a reduction in some side effects for intermittent ADT .
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Hormone Therapy With Radiotherapy
You have this if:
- your cancer hasnt spread to other parts of the body but is at a high risk of coming back, eg the cancer has grown through the covering of your prostate
- you have a very high prostatic specific antigen level
- you have a high Gleason score
You might have hormone therapy before, during and after radiotherapy. Doctors usually recommend that you have the treatment for between 3 months and 3 years. How long depends on the risk of your cancer coming back and how many side effects you get.