New study shows on balance that prostate cancer prevention drug appears to provide benefit

The research team included Dr. Paul Godley of the UNC School of Medicine and UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

New study shows on balance that prostate cancer prevention drug appears to provide benefit
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Dr. Paul Godley

Monday, August 19, 2013

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - A team of researchers has published their analysis of survival rates among study participants in the 2003 Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial showing that the prostate drug finasteride does not decrease survival after a diagnosis of prostate cancer. Their 2003 publication found that while the drug finasteride significantly reduced the risk of prostate cancer, it was associated with an increased risk of high-grade disease and possibly decreased survival.

This new study confirms that finasteride used for prostate cancer prevention appears to be safe.

The team of researchers, including Paul Godley, MD, PhD, MPP, of the UNC School of Medicine and UNC Lineberger, published their findings in the August 15, 2013, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The scientists report that although high-grade prostate cancer was more common in the finasteride group than the placebo group, after 18 years of follow up of the two groups, the team found no significant differences in the rates of overall survival or survival after a diagnosis of prostate cancer.

Dr. Godley explains, “ This study opens up the possibility for many men to prevent prostate cancer with a pill, finasteride, now that we’ve shown that the drug is, in fact, safe.”

Dr. Godley is executive associate dean for faculty affairs and faculty development and a professor of medicine.  He is also a member of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. He chaired the data and safety monitoring committee for the 2003 study, and participated as an investigator in the current publication.

The Prevention Trial showed a 24.8 percent overall reduction of prostate cancer risk. This new study showed that 10-year survival rates were 83.0 percent in the finasteride group and 80.9 percent in the placebo group for men with low-grade prostate cancer and 73 percent and 73.6 percent, respectively, for those with high-grade prostate cancer.

Other authors are from the Cancer Therapy and Research Center, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio; Southwest Oncology Group Statistical Center and Freed Hutchinson Cancer research Center in Seattle, Washington; National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland; and the University of Colorado , Denver School of Medicine.  The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute.

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