Prostate Cancer (cont.)

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What is chemotherapy for prostate cancer?

Chemotherapeutic agents, or chemotherapy, are anticancer drugs. They are used (for hormone resistant prostate cancer) as a palliative treatment (palliation to relieve symptoms) in patients with advanced cancer for whom a cure is unattainable. Recall that the goal of palliation is simply to slow the tumor's growth and relieve the patient's symptoms. Chemotherapy is not ordinarily used for organ-confined or locally advanced prostate cancers because a cure in these cases is possible with other treatments. Currently, chemotherapy is used only for advanced metastatic prostate cancers that have failed to respond to other treatments.

Several chemotherapeutic agents have been used effectively to palliate metastatic prostate cancer. One such agent is estramustine (Emcyt). Another agent called mitoxantrone (Novantrone) has been shown to be effective incombination with prednisone for palliating androgen-independent prostate cancer. As mentioned previously, metastatic tumors that have not responded specifically to hormonal therapy are referred to as castrate-resistant prostate cancers. Newer chemotherapy medicines like docetaxel (Taxotere) and carbazitaxel (Jevtana) have shown some promise in prolonging the survival of some patients with extensive prostate cancer. Other chemotherapy drugs include etoposide (VP-16), vinblastine (Velban), vinorelbine (Navelbine), paclitaxel (Taxol), and carboplatin (Paraplatin). They may also decrease the pain related to widespread cancer. However, this comes at the cost of significant side effects that may impact quality of life.

The more common side effects of chemotherapy include weakness, nausea, hair loss, and suppression of the bone marrow. The suppression of marrow, in turn, can decrease the red blood cells (causing anemia), the white blood cells (leading to infections), and the platelets (resulting in bleeding).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/9/2013

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