Avodart Delays Low-Risk Prostate Cancer Progression, Study Finds

(TORONTO, Canada – Jan. 24, 2012) – For men diagnosed with low-risk, localized prostate cancer, treatment with dutasteride (brand name “Avodart”) delays disease progression, a 3-year study has found. The drug is classed as a 5a-reductase inhibitor. In men opting at this stage for "Active Surveillance," Avodart delayed the start of more active treatment while reducing anxiety.

The findings are published online in The Lancet (March 234, 2012). The results are part of a 3-year international clinical trial led by Dr. Neil Fleshner, Head of Urology, University Health Network (UHN).

"The results prove that using active surveillance plus dutasteride is a viable, safe and effective treatment option for men who often undergo aggressive local treatment despite low risk of dying from the disease,” says Dr. Fleshner, a surgical oncologist in UHN’s Princess Margaret Cancer Program and Professor of Surgery at the University of Toronto. Dr. Fleshner also holds the Love Chair in Prostate Cancer Prevention Research.

“This is very good news for men with low-risk disease because aggressive treatment can have a major impact on their quality of life, with risks of impotence and incontinence,” Dr. Fleshner said.

Funded by the drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline, the trial is known as REDEEM (REduction by Dutasteride of clinical progression Events in Expectant Management of prostate cancer)

Over a 3 year period, 302 men between the ages of 48 and 82 diagnosed with low-risk localized prostate cancer were enrolled. Instead of immediately opting for active treatment with surgery or radiation, all the men agreed to be regularly monitored for clinical changes while undergoing "active surveillance."

Participants were randomized 1:1 to receive dutasteride or a matching placebo daily. The men also underwent biopsies at 1.5 and three years.

Results showed a significant delay in disease progression in the men treated with dutasteride – 38% compared with 48% who received the placebo. As well, the final biopsies showed the men treated with the drug were less likely to have cancer detected – 36% compared with 23%.

“This is the first study to show that a 5a-reductase inhibitor such as dutasteride reduces the need for aggressive treatment in low-risk disease,” says Dr. Fleshner. “The drug, currently commonly used to treat enlarged prostate, works by inhibiting the male sex hormone that causes the enlargement in the first place.”

Dr. Fleshner says a small percentage of men reported drug-related side effects including sexual difficulty with either desire or erections (5%), or breast tenderness or enlargement (3%).

“It’s important to realize that these drugs have been around for almost 20 years in clinical practice to treat enlarged prostates," he said, "and so we have a wealth of knowledge about their side effects, which are reversible if the drug is stopped.”

Participants were also assessed for cancer-related anxiety. The men on dutasteride reported feeling much less anxious because their biopsies and PSA values improved, adds Dr. Fleshner. (PSA – or prostate-specific antigen – is a blood test used to help diagnose prostate cancer.)

Princess Margaret Hospital is a member of the University Health Network, which also includes Toronto General Hospital, Toronto Western Hospital and Toronto Rehabilitation Institute. All are research hospitals affiliated with the University of Toronto. For more information, go to www.uhn.ca

Study title:

Lancet. 2012 Mar 24;379(9821):1103-11. Epub 2012 Jan 24.
Dutasteride in localised prostate cancer management: the REDEEM randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.


Princess Margaret Hospital, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Edited for psa-rising.com by J. Strax.