A NEW drug to help extend the lives of patients with advanced prostate cancer has been launched after tests on men in Scotland.
Xtandi – also known as enzalutamide – has been licensed to treat men in the advanced stages of the disease after they have already tried other treatments such as chemotherapy and become resistant to hormone therapies.
Trials, which involved Glasgow patients, found that the once-a-day tablet reduced the risk of dying by 37 per cent, helping extend the lives of the men by valuable extra months.
But the drug will not be immediately available to patients in Scotland until it has been assessed for use on the NHS by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC), probably before the end of year.
However, English patients will be able to access it immediately through the Cancer Drugs Fund south of the Border.
Campaigners have called for a quick decision to make sure Scottish patients were not disadvantaged in accessing the drug. Researcher Dr Rob Jones, from Glasgow University, said the trial his patients were involved in had seen average survival increase by 4.8 months among those taking Xtandi compared to men using a placebo.
“Some people may say that 4.8 months does not sound like very much but when it’s your last 4.8 months, they are quite important,” he said.
But Dr Jones said the treatment was also good at reducing the symptoms patients suffered in their final months.
“These are men with very advanced cancer who are all going to die of that cancer,” he said.
“Prostate cancer tends to spread to the bones which causes a lot of symptoms in the last year of life, with bone pain and more devastating complications such as paralysis.
“But what the trial found was that whatever way you measured the benefits of the drug, it improved these. It improved pain control. It delayed the time to developing further significant pain. It improved quality of life and it delayed quality of life deteriorating.”
Dr Jones said another benefit was that the new drug had virtually no side-effects.
Since the trials of Xtandi, made by Astellas Pharma, another drug called abiraterone has been launched, also to treat patients with advanced prostate cancer. Dr Jones said both drugs had similar benefits, but doctors would like to have a choice of treatments to offer patients.
Ahead of approval by the SMC, patients in Scotland will have to go through the process of an individual patient treatment request to get Xtandi.
The Scottish Government is currently in the process of reviewing access to drugs in the hope of improving the system to make it fairer and more transparent.