Medications are often an important part of a treatment plan for prostate cancer.
One of the most commonly diagnosed cancers worldwide is cancer of your prostate, a golf ball-sized gland responsible for semen production.
There are many ways to treat prostate cancer. Because it’s often a slow-growing cancer, one common treatment plan is called active surveillance, which means monitoring the cancer without any other treatment.
Depending on your cancer’s stage and the symptoms you’re experiencing, other treatments could include:
There are also many other treatments for prostate cancer that involve taking different types of medication.
In this article, we’ll focus just on these medications, how they work, how effective they are, and their potential risks.
There are many different ways medications can be used to treat prostate cancer. They could act to starve cancer cells of energy or could encourage your body to fight the cancer cells directly.
Let’s look at each type of prostate cancer treatment one at a time and list the various medications that fall into each category.
Androgens are a type of hormone. Prostate cancer uses the androgens your body naturally produces in order to grow.
One of the most well-known androgens is testosterone, which is primarily produced by your testicles.
Luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH)/gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists and LHRH/GnRH antagonists all work by preventing your testicles from producing androgens using different chemical approaches. This is a type of hormone therapy.
Side effects can include:
- testicle shrinking
- erectile dysfunction
- reduced sex drive
- hot flashes
- weight gain
Drugs in this category include:
If LHRH agonists or antagonists aren’t effective, you might switch to anti-androgen therapies, also called androgen receptor blockers or anti-androgens.
Androgen receptor blockers bind to the prostate cancer cells themselves, blocking their ability to bind with androgens that would help them grow.
These medications may cause similar side effects to LHRH agonists or LHRH antagonists.
Anti-androgen medications include:
While your testicles produce most of the androgens in your body, they can also be made in your adrenal glands and by prostate cancer cells themselves.
So even if you’re taking LHRH agonists or antagonists, you’re still producing some amount of androgens, and these can still be used by prostate cancer cells to grow.
Androgen synthesis inhibitors prevent androgens from being made anywhere in your body.
Medications in this category include:
Chemotherapy is a type of medication that aims to directly destroy cancer cells in your body. It’s used for many types of cancer, though it’s not usually the first treatment for prostate cancer.
Chemotherapy drugs are very strong and end up destroying many of your healthy cells too, leading to side effects like:
- hair loss
- decreased appetite
- brain fog
- increased risk of infection
- peripheral neuropathy (where your nerves are damaged and sometimes cause a burning sensation in your hands and feet)
- increased risk of blood clots
- increase risk of heart attack
Chemotherapy drugs used to treat prostate cancer include:
- docetaxel (Taxotere)
- cabazitaxel (Jevtana)
- mitoxantrone hydrochloride (Novantrone)
- estramustine sodium phosphate (Emcyt)
Immunotherapy treatments aim to use your body’s own immune system to help combat prostate cancer cells.
Two immunotherapies for prostate cancer are cancer vaccines and PD-1 inhibitors.
The cancer vaccine is made specifically for you using your own white blood cells. It’s called sipuleucel-T (Provenge). Its side effects include:
A PD-1 inhibitor makes your T cells more easily triggered to attack other cells, including prostate cancer. This drug is called pembrolizumab (Keytruda). Its side effects include:
Targeted drug therapies use different genetic mutations (changes) in your cancer cells.
Your prostate cancer cells may or may not have a genetic mutation that can be targeted by this type of drug. A doctor might need to test your cells to find out if these drugs are a good fit for you.
Side effects can include:
Targeted therapy medications include:
You may still have other questions about medications used to treat prostate cancer. Let’s review some of the most common.
What is the most popular drug for prostate cancer?
The use of prostate cancer drugs depends on the type of treatment being used. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. So, the choice of prostate cancer drugs should be focused on your own cancer, treatment goals, side effects, and effectiveness.
For chemotherapy, the taxane class of drugs is often used.
What are the newest drugs for prostate cancer?
There are many new drug developments for treating prostate cancer. But many of them apply to very specific circumstances, such as having certain genetic markers. A doctor can provide more information about whether these drugs might be helpful for you.
Some of the newer prostate cancer drugs
- enzalutamide (Xtandi)
- abiraterone (Zytiga)
- darolutamide (Nubeqa)
- apalutamide (Erleada)
- olaparib (Lynparza) and rucaparib (Rubraca)
- sipuleucel-T (Provenge)
- pembrolizumab (Keytruda)
- dostarlimab (Jemperli)
- Lu177-PSMA-617 (Pluvicto)
What are the best prostate cancer treatments?
The best treatment for your prostate cancer will be somewhat subjective. It’ll depend on your cancer’s stage, your treatment goals, and your overall health.
Radiation therapy and surgery are often used to treat prostate cancer, with medications supplementing these treatments to varying degrees, especially at more advanced stages.
There are many types of medications that can be used to treat prostate cancer.
Medications might be used individually or in some combination. They might also be combined with other forms of treatment such as radiotherapy or surgery.
Your own treatment will depend on your cancer’s stage, your overall health, and your treatment goals.