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Delaying Hormone Therapy is Safe for Prostate Cancer Patients

Update Date: May 15, 2014 03:41 PM EDT

A new study is reporting that it is safe for some prostate cancer patients to delay the start of hormone-depletion therapy, which is one of the most common forms of treatment for this type cancer. Due to certain side effects of the treatment, delaying the start of it can improve a patient's quality of life, the researchers concluded.

"Hormone [-depleting] therapy is one of the oldest, most common and most effective treatment approaches in prostate cancer, and these findings will influence the treatment of thousands of patients worldwide," American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) president-elect Dr. Peter Yu said reported by Philly. "This study is also a great example of how less-aggressive treatment can sometimes offer patients optimal outcomes while sparing them from side effects that impair their quality of life."

For this study, the researchers examined data on over 14,000 patients. The researchers monitored the patient's prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels, which is a tumor-associated protein that helps doctors assess the severity of the tumor. A little over 2,000 patients ended up with elevated PSA levels after undergoing prostate surgery or radiation therapy. The researchers separated this group of "PSA relapse" patients into two groups.

The first group received hormone depletion therapy immediately while the second group waited to receive treatment if a tumor was detected or if symptoms returned. The participants were tracked for an average of 3.5 years after their relapse. During this time, the researchers found that the group waiting to receive hormonal treatment, called the deferred group, was not negatively affected. The researchers calculated the estimated five-year survival rates for both groups and found that the percentages were 85 and 87 for the immediate-treatment and deferred groups respectively.

The team added that patients from the deferred group had a better quality of life because they were able to spend more days symptom-free than the other group. Some of these side effects such as sexual dysfunction, depression and weakening bones, can be highly debilitating.

"Rising PSA levels trigger a lot of anxiety, and many men want to start treatment as soon as possible," study lead author Dr. Xabier Garcia-Albeniz, a research associate at Harvard University School of Public Health in Boston, said. "These findings suggest that there may be no need to rush to androgen deprivation therapy. If our results are confirmed in randomized trials, patients could feel more comfortable waiting until they develop symptoms or signs of cancer that are seen on a scan, before initiating [treatment]."

The study will be presented at the ASCO meeting in Chicago, IL.

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