How do you know when your new cancer drug is working better than expected? When they shut down the clinical trial so that every participating patient can receive it.
It's always a good sign for drugs when clinical trials are shut down so that every participating patient can receive it. Johnson & Johnson's Zytiga is definitely a big deal. The FDA approved its use for advanced prostate cancer patients who had already received chemo but whose cancer still metastasized.
Prostate cancer is typically treatable, as long as it is caught before it spreads. Once it does, the cancer would typically go to the bones where it becomes resistant to normal testosterone, blocking hormonal therapies. Zytiga, on the other hand, is a unique cancer fighting compound that penetrates cancerous cells and shuts down its testosterone production, thus quickly killing off the damaged cells and preventing their spread. Zytiga remains effective after the cancer metastasizes and other drugs lose their punch.
In a new study from UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's annual meeting in Chicago, shows that Zytiga can be prescribed much earlier in the disease's progression, specifically before metastasization. It has incredible results.
1,088 prostate cancer patients in 12 countries participated in the trial. Each man received the standard low-dose prednisone treatment, with half also getting Zytiga and the other receiving a placebo. Researchers discovered that the in the Zytiga group, the cancer had progressed at only half the speed as the control group. Patients were reporting significantly less pain and a noticeable delay before they had to undertake chemo. The results were so great that the trial was cancelled to allow every patient access to the drug.
"After that first bottle, my pain went away and I just felt like my life was turning around," Rodolfo Chavez, 83, a former longshoreman from San Pedro told SFGate. "I'm still taking them. I'm on my 10th bottle and supposed to get another bottle today."
The FDA has yet to approve Zytiga for earlier use and won't do so until at least next year when the study's final results are published but this is very good news for late stage prostate cancer patients.