When the clinical trial for Johnson & Johnson’s new cancer drug went better than anyone could have expected, it caused quite a stir. Usually, the whole clinical trial process can take some time. Medical researchers have to analyze the results of the trial, which (if the results are positive) often leads to further tests on more participants. So it came as a bit of a shock when this latest clinical trial was actually shut down in order to administer this new drug to all of the participants.
Johnson & Johnson’s Zytiga was approved by the FDA only last year. Since its approval, this new cancer drug has become the big man on campus. Zytiga was designed to be used by patients who had metastasized prostate cancer despite receiving chemotherapy.
About 200,000 men in the United States are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year. If the cancer is caught early enough, before it has a chance to spread, then it is typically treatable. If the prostate cancer is not caught early, then it will typically spread to the patient’s bones. At this point, the cancer becomes resistant to the normal testosterone-blocking hormonal therapies.
This is where Zytiga establishes itself as a cut above the other cancer fighting drugs that have been approved by the FDA. Zytiga is a unique compound which actually penetrates the cancerous cells. Once inside, the drug shuts down the cell’s testosterone production, which quickly kills off the damaged cells and thereby prevents any further spread. And that’s just the start; in fact, Zytiga will remain in large and in charge, even after the cancer has metastasized (the point at which other cancer drugs lose their effectiveness).
This latest clinical study was held at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center (a cancer treatment center in California), and only days ago, the incredible results were presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting in Chicago. This clinical study showed that Zytiga could be prescribed to prostate cancer patients at a much earlier stage of the disease. When Zytiga was applied early, specifically before the cancer metastasized, the results were astounding!
The clinical trial consisted of 1,088 prostate cancer patients from 12 different countries. Each participant was scheduled to receive the standard low dose prednisone treatment. Then half of the participants were selected to receive Zytiga and the other half was given a placebo. The results were almost immediate! In the Zytiga group, researchers found that the cancer was progressing at only half the speed of the control group.
What’s more, the Zytiga patients all reported significantly lower levels of pain, as well as a noticeable delay before having to undergo chemotherapy. These results were so significant, that a unanimous decision was made to cancel the trial. Instead, every participant was allowed access to Zytiga.
Zytiga will likely not be approved for earlier use in prostate cancer patients until next year, at which point the final results of this latest clinical study will be published. Even so, this should serve as a beacon of hope for any late-stage prostate cancer patients who have exhausted all other treatment options. Now they have a real chance to live the rest of their lives in good health.