Harvard Perspectives on Prostate Disease

Experimental therapies for prostate cancer

Abiraterone and MDV3100 may slow disease progression

Despite having had surgery or radiation, about 25% to 40% of prostate cancer patients will experience a rising prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level, often a sign of recurrent disease. In these cases, doctors generally turn to hormone therapy to stanch the body's production of testosterone, the male hormone (or androgen) that fuels the growth of prostate cancer. The drugs prevent the natural secretion of LHRH, short for luteinizing hormone–releasing hormone, which is the brain's chemical signal to start testosterone production.

Hormone therapy for prostate cancer, also called androgen deprivation therapy or chemical castration, causes testosterone levels to drop by up to 95%. Testosterone levels can also be reduced by surgically removing the testicles. But given the irreversible nature and potential psychological impact of this procedure, it is not usually the treatment of choice.

Key points

  • Androgen deprivation, whether through surgical removal of the testicles or with medication, is an effective treatment for recurring prostate cancer — at least for several months or even years.

  • An improved understanding of the biology of prostate cancer has led to the development of two experimental drugs that might slow disease progression in prostate cancer patients whose disease no longer responds to androgen deprivation.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »