New pill for advanced prostate cancer patients

PHOTO: New pill for advanced prostate cancer patients

SINGAPORE - For the first time in Singapore, a new oral treatment is available for advanced stage prostate cancer patients who are not responding well to chemotherapy.

Approved by the Health Sciences Authority, the pill Zytiga (Abiraterone acetate) is to be taken once a day.

Zytiga has been shown in global clinical trials to extend the survival of test subjects by 4.6 months, said its developer Janssen, a pharmaceutical company under Johnson&Johnson.

It was also shown to improve the quality of life in patients whose cancer has spread beyond the prostate gland after failed chemotherapy.

Zytiga works by uniquely blocking an enzyme involved in the production of testosterone in the testes, adrenal glands and the tumor itself.

Prostate cancer is the third most common cancer and the sixth leading cause of death among Singaporean men.

Research shows that Singapore men have a one in 37 chance of developing prostate cancer in their lifetime and that more than 500 men are diagnosed with this disease each year.

The cancer is usually found in ageing men, aged 60 years and above. By 2030, the number of patients diagnosed is expected to increase as one in five Singaporean residents will be aged 65 and above.

Hence, Singapore doctors are encouraging ageing men to seek early medical advice if they experience pain, discomfort or other symptoms during urination.

Dr Sim Hong Gee, Director of Urologic Oncology at the Singapore General Hospital, expressed concerns that there is still a worrying trend of ageing men in Singapore delaying their first diagnosis to only after their prostate cancer has advanced.

"Unfortunately, they are only coming to us at the advanced stages of prostate cancer," he said.

Dr Sim advised that early detection and treatment can prevent the advancement of the cancer and avert the painful and debilitating impact of late-stage prostate cancer.

Men should have on-going discussion with their health care providers as when prostate cancer is diagnosed early; it is often confined to the prostate gland itself and may be easier to treat, say doctors.

If delayed, the cancer may metastasise, or spread, to other parts of the body such as the bones, lungs and liver.

Bone metastases are a common, painful and potentially debilitating consequence and can severely impact the patients' qualify of life.

When combined with prednisone or prednisolone, Zytiga has been shown to effectively reduce pain and symptoms in certain men with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer.

Dr Chau Noan Minh, Medical Oncology Consultant at the National Cancer Centre Singapore, said that local patient experience has been largely positive.

"We have observed that the side-effects of abiraterone were well-tolerated, and where they occurred, were manageable. Those patients who responded felt an improvement in their quality of life," said Dr Chau.