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New drug helps treat advanced prostate cancer

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Xofigo increases quality of life and decreases pain

Amit Shah, MD, radiation oncologist and Hieu Nguyen, nuclear medicine technologist

Amit Shah, MD, radiation oncologist at WellSpan’s York Cancer Center, injects Xofigo into the arm of a prostate cancer patient as nuclear medicine technologist Hieu Nguyen looks on. The drug is a new and innovative weapon in treating this disease.

WellSpan’s cancer centers are using a new drug that effectively relieves pain, reduces the use of pain medication, reduces the risk of fractures and improves the quality of life for advanced prostate cancer patients.

This new treatment may allow some men to delay additional chemotherapy or external radiation for a significant time. Xofigo (pronounced Zo-fee-go) is an injectable form of radiation described as a “bone-seeking radio-pharmaceutical.”

Amit Shah, MD, radiation oncologist at WellSpan’s York Cancer Center, said, “Xofigo provides prostate cancer patients and their physicians with a new and innovative weapon in the armamentarium to treat this advanced disease.”

Shah said the treatment has demonstrated a positive impact on the day-to-day life of patients.

“The combination of dissipating pain and increasing survival has enabled patients to enjoy time with family and friends again,” he offered.

Xofigo is indicated for men whose cancer has spread to their bones despite receiving treatments to lower testosterone levels.

Testosterone stimulates the growth and spread of prostate cancer. Xofigo is injected into a patient’s arm vein and administered once a month for six months.

The drug binds with minerals in the bone to deliver radiation directly to tumor deposits in the bone. Its effectiveness is comparable to breaking a window by throwing a bowling ball at it as compared to throwing a grape at it.

Xofigo is only effective for limited distances in the affected bone, and therefore, causes less damage to surrounding healthy tissues.

The most common temporary side effects in studies of the drug have been nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and swelling of the leg. It may also reduce blood levels and require regular monitoring throughout the treatment period.

Potential patients may be referred to radiation oncologists at York Cancer Center, Adams Cancer Center and Cherry Tree Cancer Center. Patients should check with their insurance company or health plans to see if this new drug will be covered under their policy.

For more information about WellSpan’s comprehensive cancer care services in York and Adams counties, please visit www.wellspan.org/cancer.

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