Could testosterone shrink advanced prostate tumors?

7 Jan 2015

Scientists at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center found in a surprising paradox, that the male hormone testosterone (generally thought to be a feeder of prostate cancer) suppressed some advanced prostate cancers and possibly reversed resistance to testosterone-blocking drugs used to treat prostate cancer. This new, small study tested an approach based on the idea that if prostate cancer cells were flooded with testosterone, the cells might be killed by the hormone shock. The cells also might react by making fewer receptors, which may make the prostate tumor cells vulnerable once more to androgen deprivation therapy.

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For the study, medical oncologist Samuel Denmeade, M.D. and his colleagues enrolled 16 men who had been receiving testosterone-lowering treatment for metastatic prostate cancer at Johns Hopkins. Of 10 men whose metastatic cancers could be measured with imaging scans, 5 experienced tumor shrinkage by more than half, including one man whose cancer completely disappeared. The scientists say these results suggest that testosterone therapy has the potential to reverse the resistance that eventually develops to testosterone-blocking drugs like enzalutamide.

Small trial but with optimistic results and rare side effects

During the trial, many of the men experienced the usual side effects of chemotherapy. However, in men receiving only the testosterone injection, side effects were rare and usually low grade. “We have plenty of anecdotes and some evidence in this small study, but it's important to test it in larger groups of patients," he adds.

Warning against self-medication with testosterone supplements

He also warns that the timing of testosterone treatment used in his research is critical and difficult to determine, and says men should not try to self-medicate their cancers with testosterone supplements available over the counter. Previous studies, he adds, have shown that taking testosterone at the wrong time (particularly by men with symptoms of active cancer progression who have not yet received testosterone-blocking therapy) can make the disease worse.

 

Source: Science Daily
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