Sunshine pill for prostate cancer in 2009

Jan 16, 2007

A tablet designed to emulate the healing power of the sun could be available for the treatment of advanced prostate cancer as early as 2009. But it remains to be seen whether the drug will be the revolution in prostate cancer care that its makers claim.

The drug, Asentar (DN-101), is based on vitamin D and is given to patients in the advanced stages of prostate cancer along with chemotherapy drugs. Drug makers came up with the idea because vitamin D from sunlight improves the prognosis of certain cancers. But taking natural levels of the vitamin has no effect. Novacea, the company that makes Asentar, produced a novel formulation that reproduces the healing effect without the dangerous side-effects of a vitamin D overdose. If the on-going phase III trial goes to plan, the new drug should be available in 2009, reports Chemistry & Industry, the magazine of the SCI.

'If the results of the phase III trial are as good as those of the phase II trial, that would be significant,' says Nick James, professor of oncology at the University of Birmingham. In the phase II trials, Asentar significantly improved survival rates, 9 months over patients taking chemotherapy drugs (taxotere) alone. 'On average, patients in the advanced stage of the disease survive about 18 months, so an extension of 9 months would be very significant in my view,' says James.

Asentar provides levels of vitamin D 50-100 times higher than normal. Patients would be expected to take one tablet once a week with their weekly regime of taxotere for three weeks out of every four.

Business analysts say Asentar is a potential blockbuster, because prostate cancer rates are expected to soar in the next few years. But James is not so sure. 'A confounding factor is that if you go looking for more cases of cancer, you will find them. But this does not give you an accurate estimate of how many people will go on to develop advanced disease. In fact death rates are going down, which means that the market for this drug is probably pretty static.'

James also points out that it is far from certain that the Phase III trials will repeat the success of early trials. 'The phase II trial used a less than optimal taxotere regime so the survival rate may have been artificially inflated,' he says. He points out, however, that it may be that the Asentar will eventually prove applicable in the earlier stages of the disease.

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men. Prostate cancer kills one man every hour in the UK.

Source: Society of Chemical Industry

Explore further: New technique could improve the outcome of breast cancer surgery

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Astronaut health check with single drop of blood

Jun 27, 2014

(Phys.org) —ESA is building a prototype tester for crews on the International Space Station to provide diagnoses within a few minutes from a pinprick of blood. The ultimate device will offer rapid health ...

Cell growth discovery has implications for targeting cancer

Oct 11, 2013

The way cells divide to form new cells—to support growth, to repair damaged tissues, or simply to maintain our healthy adult functioning—is controlled in previously unsuspected ways UC San Francisco researchers have discovered. ...

A tiny, time-released treatment

Oct 09, 2013

Omid Farokhzad's vision of medicine's future sounds a lot like science fiction. He sees medicine scaled down, with vanishingly small nanoparticles playing a big role, delivering drug doses measured in molecules ...

Nanoparticles help disrupt tumor blood supply, destroy tumors

Jul 15, 2013

(Phys.org) —In recent years, cancer researchers have been developing agents that destroy the blood vessels surrounding tumors with the goal of starving tumors to death. Some of these agents, such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha ...

Recommended for you

Aspirin may lower the risk for aggressive prostate cancer

17 minutes ago

Use of aspirin and/or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) was associated with a reduced risk for aggressive prostate cancer in men who had elevated prostate specific antigen (PSA) and a negative biopsy prior ...

User comments : 0