Breakthrough treatment for prostate cancer is helping patients live longer

Breakthrough treatment for prostate cancer is helping patients live longer

BOSTON — A breakthrough treatment for prostate cancer, researched right here in Boston, is helping patients live longer.

The clinical trial is helping local patients with late stage forms of the disease.

This pill is changing lives.

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"It's every morning, it's four capsules and you take it with water as you're getting ready for the day," said Brian Shea, prostate cancer patient.

Shea is part of a clinical trial at Dana Farber for people with late stage prostate cancer.

He was diagnosed right before Christmas in 2016.

"There was absolutely nothing to prepare me for the diagnosis. It hit me and it hit my wife very hard," he said.

Because the cancer spread beyond his prostate, Shea's doctors wanted him to try a drug called Enzalutamide that would stop him from producing testosterone.

His doctors explained the lack of testosterone would starve his type of cancer.

"If you can remove the fuel from the tumor, the tumor stops growing, the tumor dies," said Shea.

For decades, hormone therapy has been used to reduce testosterone with patients diagnosed with late stage, hormone sensitive prostate cancer.

In some patients, that can wear off after time, causing the cancer to return.

Enzalutamide combined with the existing hormone therapy acts as a second layer of protection.

Think of it like tying a double knot on your shoe lace, said Dr. Christopher Sweeney, an oncologist at Dana Farber.

"I think that's a great analogy," said Sweeney, who is a lead researcher on the Enzamet clinical trial.

Dana Farber was the only U.S. hospital involved in the multinational study.

Compared to current standard treatments, Sweeney says that patients using Enzalutamide during the trial are living longer, about 70 percent after three years.

He says the patients continue to take the pill after a brief round of chemotherapy.

"It delays the symptoms of the cancer of growing again," Sweeney said.

The side effects of taking the Enzalutamide pill are minimal compared to more invasive cancer treatments.

"Being part of this trial allowed me to continue work and continue doing things I did all the time," said Shea.

Shea still takes his Enzalutamide every day and continues to be in remission.

He says he's learned a lot about himself these past few years and says he couldn't have gone through it without his wife, Maureen.

"The news is hard and it takes a while to process, but at the end of the day, there's hope," he said. "Studies like this provide us hope."