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Prostate cancer breakthrough

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Prostate cancer breakthrough

University of Otago researchers have discovered a breakthrough in the fight against an advanced type of prostate cancer.

Professor Rhonda Rosengren (Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology) says that she and her research team have found that an existing drug, raloxifene, used to treat other conditions, is also effective in treating hormone-refractory prostate cancer.

“Raloxifene is currently prescribed for post-menopausal women with osteoporosis and can also be used as a breast cancer preventative in high risk post-menopausal women.

“Because we were having good success in treating what is known as triple-negative breast cancer with raloxifene, and triple-negative breast cancer and hormone-refractory prostate cancer are quite similar, we thought that raloxifene might also have a good chance of working in the treatment of hormone-refractor prostate cancer.”

Rosengren explains that, once men progress to hormone-refractory prostate cancer, it is very difficult to treat and the prognosis is not very good. However, experiments with laboratory mice show that raloxifene shrinks the tumours and decreases the spread of the cancer cells to other areas of the body.

Rosengren says that, because raloxifene is already a clinically-approved drug, there should be a much faster track to gaining approval to re-purpose it to treat hormone-refractory prostate cancer than there would be to get approval for a new, untested drug.

In this research Rosengren worked with the late Dr Elspeth Gold, research fellow Dr Sebastien Taurin, and assistant research fellow Mhairi Nimick, and obtained funding from the Otago Medical Research Foundation.

Photo: Graham Warman