The pill that put a Keene man into remission from his prostate cancer has recently been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Enzalutamide — an androgen-receptor inhibitor that stops the growth of cancer cells — will now be available for men with metastatic hormone-sensitive prostate cancer.
This form of cancer has spread beyond the prostate, and typical drugs used to lower the levels of the hormones called androgens, made in the testicles, don’t work as well as they do with other types of prostate cancer. Lowering the androgen levels is important because the hormones fuel prostate cancer cells, according to the American Cancer Society’s website.
Enzalutamide, which was already approved for two different forms of prostate cancer, instead interrupts how androgens work and is used in combination with a hormone-lowering drug.
The drug, sold as XTANDI and manufactured by Pfizer Inc. and Astellas Pharma Inc., was approved to be more widely available for prostate cancer patients following the results of a three-year clinical trial through Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
The trial had 1,125 men from around the world participate, including Keene’s Richard Berry, and combined enzalutamide with testosterone suppression to treat metastasized prostate cancer.
Started in December 2016 by Dr. Christopher Sweeney, an oncologist and professor of medicine at Dana-Farber, the study found participants taking enzalutamide had “significantly longer” overall survival than those in a second, standard-care group.
“Through the trial, we discovered that adding enzalutamide to testosterone suppression in men with [metastatic hormone-sensitive prostate cancer] can give much better cancer control and longer survival,” Sweeney said in a news release from Dana-Farber Monday.
Berry, 75, was one of them. After making no progress with surgery, chemotherapy or radiation, the trial has put him in deep remission. All detectable evidence of cancer is gone.
Of the trial’s participants, there were 102 deaths in the group using enzalutamide and 143 deaths in the standard-care group, according to Sweeney’s study, which was published in June in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Both groups were given testosterone suppression, but instead of enzalutamide, the standard-care group was given a non-steroidal anti-androgen — another common testosterone blocker.
Three-year survival rates were estimated at 80 percent in the enzalutamide group and 72 percent in the standard-care group.
In addition to the positive results, the study states it was also common for the enzalutamide group to experience fatigue or seizures.
Seven patients had seizures while using enzalutamide, but no one had a seizure in the standard-care group.
Berry mentioned the fatigue, saying he often felt “foggy.”
“You’re just not mentally as sharp as you normally are. At least I wasn’t,” he said in November. “I noticed after I stopped [taking the medication] that I’d feel better, but of course I feel better because I’m in deep remission.”
But overall the results are positive, and Berry said he feels good physically and mentally.
“I’m glad this will be available to others,” Berry said in an email Tuesday night.