Chemotherapy is often the last hope for thousands of patients with advanced prostate cancer, but chemo drugs come with debilitating side effects. Now a vacation from those drugs could be just what the doctor ordered.
“Loss of hair has come back ... Fingernails, toenails. That’s back” It’s been seven months since Joel Johnson stopped the weekly treatments that keep his cancer in remission. “Since I’ve been off, my strength has come back quite a bit,” he tells Ivanhoe. The upset stomach is gone, and so is the shortness of breath.
Until recently, doctors worried the so-called drug holidays would allow the cancer to become resistant. “We really have not known whether it’s safe to stop the treatment in patients in whom chemotherapy is working,” says Medical Oncologist Tom Beer, M.D., of OHSU Cancer Institute in Portland.
To find out, Dr. Beer allowed eight patients to take a break from chemotherapy. He says: “We monitored the PSA, which is a blood test we use to monitor prostate cancer. As soon as it began to go up, we restarted the treatment.”
In every case, Dr. Beer says the cancer responded. The average break lasted five months, and now some of those patients have had three or four breaks.
Johnson’s cancer is starting to come back. Soon he’ll go back on chemotherapy. That’s OK he says. He’s already looking forward to his next drug holiday.
All of the patients involved in the study had advanced prostate cancer that had spread to other parts of their bodies. A larger, phase three study is now underway.
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This article was reported by Ivanhoe.com, who offers Medical Alerts by e-mail every day of the week. To subscribe, go to: http://www.ivanhoe.com/newsalert/.
Thanks to ivanhoe.com, 1/04
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