Zytiga: A New Late-State Prostate Cancer Option

23 September 2011

On top of the wealth of prostate cancer articles during Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, this week we learned of the launch of Zytiga in the U.K. Already approved here in the U.S., Zytiga is a relatively new drug treatment for men with advanced, aggressive prostate cancer.

Men who have what is referred to as mestastic castration-resistant prostate cancer have already undergone some combination of chemotherapy, radiation and other types of testosterone-lowering treatments. For these patients, such treatment modalities have not been successful. Zytiga works by inhibiting the prostate cancer tumor’s supply of testosterone from within the tumor. Without testosterone, the tumor cannot continue to grow.

A recent study of 2,000 men across 13 countries indicated success with this new drug, giving men an additional 5 months of life when taken daily in conjunction with prednisone. Of criticism, though, is the drug’s price. A monthly supply can cost as much as $5,000.

At a time when healthcare costs are scrutinized nationwide, talk of expense seems to go hand-in-hand with each new development. Robotic surgery, too, is often questioned for the expense to the hospital in purchasing and maintaining equipment. Rather than dismiss a treatment option on the grounds of cost, we need to look at each patient individually and do our best to treat the cancer quickly and efficiently.

As I continue to urge men to have annual PSA screenings, I believe there’s an important point to be stressed about detecting and treating prostate cancer early. This new drug is no doubt an important breakthrough to men with late-stage prostate cancer. But what I believe to be the real goal is eliminating the need for any late-stage cancer treatment. We must continue focusing our efforts on early detection, followed by a treatment method such as robotic prostatectomy that will eliminate the cancer.

In doing so, we can give men the opportunity for another 20 or 30 years of active, enjoyable life, rather than a mere five. Again, I believe Zytiga has great merit for certain patients. I simply believe that we need to do a better job of preventing patients from an ongoing struggle with this progressive disease.

Untreated prostate cancer takes a toll not only on our healthcare system but, more importantly, on the lives of our patients and their families.

It’s still Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Get your PSA screening on your calendar. Don’t wait.

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