More scrutiny of prostate cancer treatment

    A group of researchers is cautioning doctors who use hormone therapy in treating patients with prostate cancer.

    Radiation therapy for prostate cancer patients came under major scrutiny at the VA Hospital in Philadelphia this summer. Now researchers are scrutinizing another aspect of the treatment — hormone therapy.

    Listen: [audio:090825kghormone.mp3]

    Men receiving radiation to treat prostate cancer sometimes receive hormones as well, to shrink the prostate and aid in therapy. Researchers from several cancer centers found that for men who have had a prior heart attack, the addition of hormone therapy increased their risk of dying in five years. Akash Nanda at Brigham and Women’s Hospital led the survey.

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    Nanda: When we say shortened life span we mean there’s an increased risk of dying from all causes. And when we did the analysis the increased risk was almost two-fold.

    Nanda says for men who have not had a heart attack, hormones are still beneficial. Eric Horwitz at Fox Chase Cancer Center was not involved in the study, but he says the results are important to consider.

    Horwitz: We feel pretty comfortable with the risks and the benefits of men who are on hormones for what’s considered a long period of time. But it was interesting that it actually showed some of the downside of hormones for a short course, which is new and was not really expected…I would say that this study is important for somebody who is recommended hormones. It’s just one more thing to ask: do I really need them? Is it going to benefit me in the treatment of my cancer?

    Horwitz says the results will make him more conservative in offering hormones to cancer patients with heart disease. But for men who do not have cardiac problems, he says, there is a still a clear benefit. The study appears in tomorrow’s [Wednesday 8/26] issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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