January 22, 2007

Prostate cancer drug trial halted for causing leukemia

A clinical study involving 1,000 prostate cancer patients was stopped this week by Southwest Oncology Group in Michigan due to concerns the treatment may have caused leukemia in three of the participants.

The men in the study received the chemotherapy drug mitoxantrone, thought to possibly improve survival rates for those with poor prognoses following prostate surgery. But before results could be measured, leukemia struck and researchers halted the study, declaring the leukemia findings "an unacceptable risk to patients."

While the assumption is that the drug caused the leukemia -- a disease commonly associated with children and the elderly -- it's still unproved at this point.

Mitoxantrone is not a worthless drug, say some experts. Since its release a decade ago, it has been used to decrease bone pain for men with advanced prostate cancer and to treat multiple sclerosis and, ironically, adult leukemia.

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