Cheap drug greatly boosts prostate cancer survival rate

MARILYNN MARCHIONE AP Chief Medical Writer Published:

CHICAGO (AP) -- A cheap, decades-old chemotherapy drug extended life by more than a year when added to standard hormone therapy for men whose prostate cancer has widely spread, doctors reported Sunday.

Men who received docetaxel, sold as Taxotere and in generic form, lived nearly 58 months versus 44 months for those not given the drug, a major study found.

"This is one of the biggest improvements we've seen in survival in adults" with any type of cancer that has widely spread from its original site, said Dr. Christopher Sweeney of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

In the study, all 790 men received drugs to block testosterone, a hormone that fuels prostate cancer's growth, and half also were given six infusions of docetaxel, one every three weeks.

About 21⁄2 years later, 101 of the men given docetaxel had died versus 136 of the men who did not receive it.

One man died from the treatment, and about 6 percent had fevers from low blood counts, but most were able to tolerate treatment well, Sweeney said.

Generic docetaxel costs about $1,500 or less per infusion.

That's far less than some other cancer drugs, which can exceed $100,000 for a course of treatment.

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