Drug May Reduce Risk of Diagnoses of Prostate Cancer in Men at High Risk


Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine on April 1 concluded that dutasteride (Avodart) will decrease the risk by 23% of being diagnosed with prostate cancer in high risk men. This drug is currently used to shrink benign enlarged prostates.

This 4 year study involved 250 sites in 42 countries and included 8,231 men between 50 and 75 years of age who were randomly assigned to receive a placebo or a daily dose of 0.5 mg of Avodart, a drug known to shrink enlarged prostates and often used for BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia). Increased risk in this study meant men who had elevated PSA levels of 2.5ng/ml to 10ng/ml but no evidence of cancer on a biopsy conducted within 6 months of enrollment into the study.

Biopsies were scheduled on the men two years and four years after enrollment into the program. Six hundred fifty nine (19.9%) of the men taking Avodart were diagnosed with prostate cancer compared to 858 men (25.1%) taking the placebo. Among those with family history of prostate cancer, Avodart reduced the relative risk of a prostate diagnoses by 31.4%.

The drug was most effective at reducing the risk of medium-grade tumors that were 5-6 on the Gleason Scale that has a 1 to 10 scale where 10 is the most aggressive. Over the four year study, 70% of all men diagnosed with prostate cancer were within the 5 to 6 range. These included 617 men (18.1%) in the placebo group and 437 men (13.2%) in the avodart group and this was a statistically significant finding. Likewise, there were no significant increase in aggressive high-grade tumors (Gleason 7-10) among men who took the Avodart over the 4 years. However, the researchers concluded that they could not rule out the possibility that some of the more aggressive tumors were at least partly related to the use of Avodart. Read additional results in the original article.

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