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A prostate cancer drug that could represent the biggest step forward in treating the disease in 60 years is offering new hope to men who would otherwise expect to die.
A preliminary trial has shown that abiraterone can reverse even the most aggressive, resistant and deadly cancers.
It interferes with an enzyme that plays a crucial role in the production of the male sex hormone, and stops the hormones being made anywhere in the body, including the cancer itself.
The drug also stops the body making the female hormone oestrogen, which fuels most breast cancers. The possibility of the drug being used to fight breast cancer and a number of hormone-related diseases is also now being researched.
Doctors believe it could potentially prolong the lives of up to 10,000 British men each year, as well as providing relief from symptoms such as excruciating bone pain.
Between 70% and 80% of seriously ill men treated with the drug have shown significant improvements. Between 20% and 30% of cases patients have experienced dramatic falls in PSA – the blood marker used to test for prostate cancer – and greatly surpassed their expectations of survival.
If abiraterone continues to live up to expectations, it could be available on the NHS in three years time.
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