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Prostate Cancer Advances Include Potential for PARP Inhibitors

Angelica Welch
Published: Wednesday, Apr 05, 2017

Celestia Higano, MD

Celestia Higano, MD

The treatment of prostate cancer is rapidly progressing on several different fronts, says Celestia Higano, MD, who discussed several of the the latest advances at the 2017 Interdisciplinary Prostate Cancer Congress (IPCC).

“I want the community to have a sense of the very rapid change of pace of prostate cancer therapy. I hope to spread the message of what is changing, why is it is changing, what has been shown in evidence-based therapies, and what is still experimental,” said Higano, MD, professor of medicine and urology at the University of Washington, and a member of the Clinical Research Division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

In an interview with OncLive at the IPCC, Higano discussed the early use of chemotherapy, the potential for PARP inhibitors, and the evolving role of radium-223 in prostate cancer.

OncLive: What has the latest research shown about the use of docetaxel in prostate cancer?

Higano: [At the IPCC] I wanted to relay the relatively new information about the addition of docetaxel to standard hormonal therapy and the survival benefit that has been seen, at least in patients with high-volume disease. Although, another study that was done that showed the same benefit did not separate out by how much disease there was. The bottom line is that this definitely changes the paradigm for treating patients with newly diagnosed, hormone-sensitive prostate cancer. 

There are other trials that will be read out later this year, probably at ASCO 2017, that will be comparing hormone therapy to hormone therapy with abiraterone acetate (Zytiga). And certainly, ADT and abiraterone is probably going to be a less toxic regimen than ADT plus docetaxel, so it is going to give us a lot to think about going forward. These 2 trials have not been compared head-to-head with docetaxel plus ADT, and maybe that is where we need to go with this, but it will definitely make us all scratch our heads about what to do if the trials are positive with abiraterone added to ADT.

What impact has docetaxel made here?

For the first time, docetaxel showed a very large difference in median overall survival in the patients who received it compared to hormone therapy alone. So, this is very new—it is one of the biggest improvements in survival that we've seen in oncology. I think that, as a medical oncologist, if we are using docetaxel earlier in the course of prostate cancer we do have to be a little cautious, though, about what impact this might have down the line. We have usually used docetaxel for metastatic castration-resistant disease, and now that we are using it for those who are metastatic hormone-sensitive disease—particularly in the high-volume patients—it might not work as well. There are some data that suggests that this happens in the castration-resistant setting, so we are just going to be cognizant of how we place docetaxel in a disease. 

What is the role of PARP inhibitors in prostate cancer?

There is some evolving information that we are getting in respect to drugs that can be used, and the kind of results we have seen recently with using PARP inhibitors in patients with so-called DNA damage alterations. The fact that approximately a quarter of the patients with metastatic prostate cancer have been shown to have these alterations is important because the use of an agent like a PARP inhibitor is a different treatment paradigm—as we have not used them before in this disease.


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