Govt watching trials of new cancer drug

Associate Health Minister Damien O'Connor says he will be watching trial results of a new prostate cancer drug with interest.

Mr O'Connor said today he was looking forward to keeping up with the results of the trials to be conducted for abiraterone, to see if it lived up to its initial promise.

The experimental prostate cancer drug looks to add years of life to men with advanced disease and has been heralded as "sensational" by Australian experts.

A "once a day" pill, abiraterone has been found to shrink tumours and relieve pain in eight out of 10 men with aggressive and incurable prostate cancer.

Some men involved in the preliminary studies had survived for more than twice as long as expected when all other treatments failed, a study published yesterday in the Journal of Clinical Oncology reported.

Australian oncologists said yesterday the drug, still about three years from public release, was one of the most exciting developments in the prostate field in recent years.

Most men who develop prostate cancer are able to manage their disease with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, but in a smaller number of cases the tumours become resistant to current hormone drugs. Most of those men survive less than 18 months.

Abiraterone blocks the production of male hormones and can produce a response, even in hormone-resistant tumours.

Researchers at the Institute of Cancer Research in London tested the drug worldwide on 250 men with advanced cancer, with some living as long as 32 months. Mr O'Connor said the Ministry of Health's Cancer Control Strategy group was also establishing a "horizon scanning" function, to keep abreast of international developments in cancer care.

The Government was committed to improving access and raising awareness of men's health and "we will certainly be keeping a close eye on all areas of men's health".

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