Hormone therapy and chemotherapy both use a number of different drugs to treat prostate cancer.

Hormone Therapy Drugs

The goal of hormone therapy is to reduce the levels of androgens (male hormones, such as testosterone) that cause prostate tissue to grow and, therefore, can speed the growth of cancerous tissue. In other words, less testosterone in the body can slow the growth and spread of cancer. There are several classes of drugs used in hormone therapy, either individually or in combination.

Luteinizing Hormone-releasing Hormone Agonists

Luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) agonists reduce testosterone production in the body. One drawback to LHRH agonists is that they can cause a “flare,” a brief increase in testosterone levels when first taken. Examples include:

  • histrelin (Vantas)
  • goserelin (Zoladex)
  • leuprolide (Lupron, Viadur, Eligard)
  • triptorelin (Trelstar)

Luteinizing Hormone-releasing Hormone Antagonists

LHRH antagonists also reduce testosterone production in the body without any initial increase (flare) in testosterone. The only LHRH antagonist currently available is degarelix (Firmagon).

Note: The end result of agonist or antagonist treatment is the same—reduced testosterone production. LHRH agonists have been around longer and have been extensively studied. LHRH antagonists are fairly new medicines that are useful but have been used on fewer patients to date.


Antiandrogens prevent the body from using androgen hormones. They are often used in combination with LHRH agonists to prevent flare because some testosterone is made outside the testicles and is not affected by LHRH agonists. Antiandrogen drugs include:

  • bicalutamide (Casodex)
  • flutamide (Eulexin)
  • nilutamide (Nilandron)

Other Androgen Blockers

There are other androgen blockers that prevent the body from making testosterone and other androgens in the adrenal glands in addition to the testicles. There are two of these used in prostate-cancer treatment:

  • aminoglutethimide (Cytadren)
  • ketoconazole (Nizoral)

Chemotherapy Drugs

There are several different drugs used in chemotherapy treatments for various kinds of cancer. Chemotherapy drugs are often given alongside a steroid—such as prednisone—to help reduce side effects. The following are commonly used for prostate-cancer chemotherapy:

  • carboplatin (Paraplatin)
  • docetaxel (Taxotere)
  • doxorubicin (Adriamycin)
  • estramustine (Emcyt)
  • etoposide (VP-16)
  • mitoxantrone (Novantrone)
  • paclitaxel (Taxol)
  • vinblastine (Velban)
  • vinorelbine (Navelbine)