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Health & Medicine for Senior Citizens

Drug Approved to Treat Nail Fungus Found to Delay Chemo in Advanced Prostate Cancer

Itraconzole slows prostate cancer progression but has potential of serious side effects

Fungal Nail infection, candidal - http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001330.htmJune 3, 2011 - The oral antifungal drug itraconazole, most commonly used to treat nail fungus, may keep prostate cancer from worsening and delay the need for chemotherapy in men with advanced disease, according to new research from John Hopkins.

Currently, the drug is approved to treat fungal infections in nails and other organs. Serious side effects can include heart failure, and Johns Hopkins researchers caution that itraconazole needs further study before it can be considered for prostate cancer treatment (see warnings below artile).

 

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More Links to Archived Reports at Bottom of this Page


 
 

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Details of the finding, from a clinical trial led by Johns Hopkins experts, are scheduled for presentation on Saturday, June 4 at the 2011 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting.

Identified as a potential anticancer drug after Hopkins scientists scoured a database of more than 3,000 FDA-approved drugs, itraconazole appears to block tumor blood vessel growth - the only drug in its class to do so - much like the anticancer drug bevacizumab (Avastin).

The antifungal also disrupts a key cancer-initiating biological pathway called Hedgehog. Laboratory testing by Johns Hopkins scientist Jun Liu, Ph.D., has shown that human prostate tumors implanted in mice shrink when treated with itraconazole.

"The most effective therapy we have right now for metastatic prostate cancer is hormone therapy, and when it doesn't work, the next step is usually chemotherapy," says Emmanuel Antonarakis, M.D., assistant professor of oncology at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center. In a search for compounds that could put off chemotherapy, the Johns Hopkins team turned to itraconazole.

For the study, patients with prostate cancer that had spread to other organs and did not respond to hormone therapy were randomly assigned to receive low or high doses of itraconazole.

Over 24 weeks of daily treatment with oral itraconazole, the investigators tracked the length of time for each patient's prostate cancer to worsen (called progression-free survival). Evidence of worsening disease was measured by a 25 percent increase in their blood level of prostate specific antigen (PSA), a marker for prostate cancer.

Early in the trial, preliminary analysis of 17 men receiving low doses of itraconazole showed that only two of them (11.8 percent) had stable or declining PSA. Because of the limited response, no further men were given low doses of the drug.

However, 11 of 24 (48.4 percent) men taking high doses of itraconazole had stable or declining PSA levels lasting at least 24 weeks. In addition, nearly a third of men taking the high dose had PSA reductions of 30 percent or more. Metastatic prostate cancer patients receiving no treatment typically would worsen in eight to 12 weeks, according to Antonarakis.

The investigators also found that 12 of 14 men taking high doses of itraconazole had lower levels of circulating tumor cells present in their blood after therapy, compared with their baseline levels.

Seven patients experienced side effects, including low potassium, hypertension and fluid retention, but the problems were resolved with potassium replacement pills, anti-hypertension drugs, and diuretics.

"We also tested whether itraconazole acted as hormone therapy by tracking levels of testosterone and DHEA (a testosterone derivative) in the blood, and we found no reductions of either testosterone or DHEA," says Antonarakis.

"This finding shows that itraconazole is not just another hormone therapy, and has a unique mechanism of action."

Antonarakis and colleagues next plan to examine blood and skin samples taken from study participants specifically to look for levels of proteins linked to tumor blood vessel formation and the Hedgehog pathway.

"With these results, we believe that high-dose itraconazole is worth studying in a larger group of men with advanced prostate cancer," adds Antonarakis.

The clinical trial was funded by the Department of Defense (DoD) Prostate Cancer Research Program, the Commonwealth Foundation for Cancer Research, the David H. Koch Charitable Foundation, a 2009 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Young Investigator Award granted to Antonarakis, and the National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute.

In addition to Antonarakis, other investigators participating in the research on behalf of the Prostate Cancer Clinical Trials Consortium included Amanda Blackford, Serina King, Anja Frost, Seun Ajiboye, Sushant Kachhap, Michelle Rudek, and Michael Carducci from Johns Hopkins; Elisabeth Heath from the Karmanos Cancer Institute; David Smith from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; and Dana Rathkopf and Daniel Danila from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Why is Itraconazole prescribed?

Itraconazole capsules are used to treat fungal infections that begin in the lungs and can spread through the body. Itraconazole capsules are also used to treat fungal infections of the fingernails and/or toenails. Itraconazole oral solution is used to treat yeast infections of the mouth and throat and suspected fungal infections in patients with fever and certain other signs of infection. Itraconazole is in a class of antifungals called triazoles. It works by slowing the growth of fungi that cause infection.

Warning

Itraconazole can cause congestive heart failure (condition in which the heart cannot pump enough blood through the body). Tell your doctor if you have or have ever had heart failure; a heart attack; an irregular heartbeat; any other type of heart disease; lung, liver, or kidney disease; or any other serious health problem. If you experience any of the following symptoms, stop taking itraconazole and call your doctor immediately: shortness of breath; coughing up white or pink phlegm; weakness; excessive tiredness; fast heartbeat; swelling of the feet, ankles, or legs; and sudden weight gain.

Do not take cisapride (Propulsid), dofetilide (Tikosyn), pimozide (Orap), or quinidine (Quinaglute, Quinidex, others), while taking itraconazole. Taking these medications with itraconazole can cause serious irregular heartbeat.

Talk to your doctor about the risks of taking itraconazole.

>> More at PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine


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