Avodart May Lower Prostate Cancer Risk
Study Shows Fewer Cancers Diagnosed in Men Who Took the Drug
Reducing Prostate Cancer Risk continued...
He adds that the drug appears most effective for lowering the risk of
About 70% of men with prostate cancer in the study, and in the prostate
cancer population at-large, have medium-grade tumors that may or may not grow
to the point where they become deadly, he says.
"Once there is a diagnosis of prostate cancer about 80% to 90% of men in the
U.S. choose aggressive treatment, which can result in life-altering side
effects," he says. "If a man in this midrange [risk] category takes this drug
he may never have to make this decision because his cancer may never be
The researchers found no increase in aggressive, high-grade tumors in those
who took Avodart for four years. However, in looking solely at
years three and four of the study, investigators noted 12 high-grade tumors in
men in the Avodart group and one in the placebo group.
The investigators speculate that if the men in the placebo group who had
been diagnosed with medium-grade tumors in years one and two had remained in
the study (they were withdrawn after prostate cancer was diagnosed as required
by the study) they might have been found to have high-grade tumors on biopsy in
years three and four.
ED, Heart Failure, and Avodart
Roughly 9% of the men in the Avodart arm of the study reported some erectile
dysfunction, compared to about 5.7% of those in the placebo group.
The researchers also reported an unexpected increase in heart failure rates
among the Avodart-treated patients.
A total of 0.7% of the men on Avodart and 0.4% of the men not treated with
the drug were diagnosed with heart failure.
The difference was not statistically significant, and no difference in
deaths from cardiac causes was seen.
In further analysis, the researchers found that close to half of the heart
failures in the active-treatment group occurred among men who were also taking
alpha-blockers. Alpha-blockers are used to treat high blood pressure and
GlaxoSmithKline spokesman Rob Perry tells WebMD that no evidence of an
increase in heart failure risk has been reported over a decade of use in men
taking Avodart to shrink enlarged prostates.
In an editorial published with the study, Johns Hopkins Medical Institution
professor of urology Patrick C. Walsh, MD, argues that Avodart and Proscar do
not prevent prostate cancers, but instead "merely temporarily shrink tumors
that have low potential for being lethal."
He adds that by suppressing PSA levels, the drug could give men a false
sense of security and possibly delay diagnosis.
"This drug has side effects, it costs $4 a day, and I do not believe its use
for chemoprevention will result in a meaningful reduction in clinically
relevant prostate cancers," Walsh tells WebMD.