J&J's Zytiga may be useful in early prostate cancer, too

Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) Zytiga is FDA-approved for men with advanced prostate cancer. But a new study suggests it may be effective in early-stage disease, too. The small trial--it involved only 58 patients with localized, high-risk cancer--found that Zytiga wiped out or nearly wiped out tumors in one-third of them.

Zytiga was administered to these patients before surgery, in so-called neoadjuvant therapy. As The New York Times reports, patients with some other types of cancer live longer when their tumors are wiped out before the knife. And as lead researcher Mary-Ellen Taplin told the newspaper, high-risk prostate cancers aren't often cured by surgery, so successful neoadjuvant treatment could be big.

In this study, the abstract of which was released late yesterday in advance of the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting next month, patients took Zytiga along with standard drug therapy for either 12 weeks or 24 weeks. In 10% of the men who took it for 24 weeks, tumors were undetectable after surgery, and in 24%, only a small amount of tumor remained. Among the men with 12 weeks of therapy, similar responses were seen in 4% and 11%, respectively.

Taplin cautioned that the results need confirmation before doctors start altering their treatment strategies. "This is a 58-patient trial and with a very, very expensive drug," she told the Times. "So I don't think anyone is going to be encouraging this type of treatment without more data." Zytiga is priced at about $5,000 per month.

More Zytiga data will be forthcoming at the ASCO meeting: A larger study of Zytiga in men with advanced prostate cancer, used before chemo, is due for unveiling then.

- read the NYT piece