Prostate Cancer Treatment Medications

Drugs designed to treat prostate cancer do not cure the disease. Chemotherapy and hormone therapy provide palliative care and relief from prostate cancer symptoms. Medication is one of the few treatment options available if the disease has metastasized to other organs.

Hormone Therapy

Medication is one of the few treatment options.Testosterone has been linked to prostate tumor growth rates. Hormone therapy inhibits testosterone levels, or prevents the hormone from acting on the prostate. Estrogen was once commonly used to counteract testosterone. It is no longer a common method of treatment due to the number of possibly severe side effects, which include heart disease.

LHRH Analogs (Zoladex and Lupron Depot)

Some of the most common hormone therapy drugs go by the long-winded name of luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone analog drugs (or LHRH analogs). Members of this family include Zoladex® and Lupron Depot®. Zoladex and other LHRH analog medications prevent the production of testosterone, and are given by injection every four weeks. Side effects include hot flashes, impotence, and lowered libido.

When starting LHRH analog treatment, prostate cancer symptoms may worsen before testosterone levels drop. Pain management with analgesics and antiandrogens helps control symptoms.

Antiandrogens (Casodex and Flutamide)

Antiandrogen medications block testosterone’s ability to work in the prostate, slowing tumor growth. Antiandrogens, such as Casodex® and Drogenil® (commonly referred to by its generic name, flutamide), are often used in combination with LHRH analogs. The combination ensures minimal testosterone activity, and the antiandrogens provide pain management during the initial phases of LHRH treatment.

In combination, LHRH analog medication and antiandrogen therapy can produce a number of side effects, including diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and liver injury. However, clinical trials indicate that hormone therapy does increase the lifespan of men suffering from advanced prostate cancer.

Chemotherapy and Palliative Care

If hormone therapy proves ineffective, chemotherapy offers palliative care for prostate cancer symptoms. Chemotherapy uses powerful drugs to attack cancer cells. Unfortunately, chemotherapy drugs also attack and kill healthy cells.

Chemotherapy is only used for advanced tumors, and current chemo drugs have not proven overly effective when used to treat prostate cancer. The therapy also has a number of side effects:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Blood clotting difficulties
  • Low blood cell counts
  • Hair loss.

Ongoing Research: Monoclonal Antibodies

The body makes antibodies in response to foreign or abnormal materials (“antigens”) in the system. Monoclonal antibodies (MAB) are genetically identical because they have been produced in the laboratory from cloned cells in response to a specific antigen. Ongoing clinical trials investigate the possible use of monoclonal antibodies to fight cancer.

MAB research is taking two approaches. In one, the monoclonal antibodies would attach to cancer cells, in essence tagging them so that when a diagnostic scan of the body is made not only are the MABs found but the cancerous cells are also found, regardless of where they are in the body. Another, more exciting possibility is that monoclonal antibodies could be engineered to transport a therapeutic agent. Not only would these cells locate all tumor cells, they would destroy them as well.

Both possibilities lie in the future. At present, there are no approved MAB therapies for prostate cancer, although clinical trials are investigating possible applications.