Purpose: Recent advances in the biology and treatment of hormone refractory prostate cancer are reviewed.
Materials and methods: A MEDLINE literature search of secondary hormonal therapy and chemotherapy for hormone refractory prostate cancer was performed. Recent advances in the biology of hormone refractory prostate cancer, changes in the measurement of response to therapy, and testing of new drugs and combinations of drugs were reviewed.
Results: Historically the treatment of hormone refractory prostate cancer has been disappointing. Useful parameters to monitor clinical response have been lacking but perhaps more importantly a scarcity of apparently active drugs has contributed to these results. Recently several developments have improved the outlook for treatment of hormone refractory prostate cancer. Recognition of antiandrogen withdrawal responses has had important ramifications for clinical trial interpretation and patient care. Secondary hormonal therapies, such as alternative antiandrogens and anti-adrenal agents, are well tolerated and can provide significant clinical benefits. Combining prostate specific antigen values with quality of life and measurable disease responses has made clinical trial end points more objective and more clinically relevant for the patient. Furthermore, a better understanding of the biology of hormone refractory prostate cancer, refinements in measuring response to treatment and availability of agents with proved palliative capabilities and/or generating greater than 50% response have all lead to improvements in treatment management. In 2 randomized studies mitoxantrone in combination with steroids has demonstrated significant palliative benefit compared with steroids alone. In phase II studies more than half of patients respond to estramustine combinations with vinblastine, etoposide or paclitaxel. Other novel combinations and new drugs currently are being tested.
Conclusions: Recent advances suggest that available therapies for hormone refractory prostate cancer can have a meaningful impact on the disease. Improving treatment of hormone refractory prostate cancer remains an area of active investigation.