Development of prostate drug based on UT Southwestern research

DALLAS June 24, 2003 A new finding revealing that the drug finasteride reduces the risk of prostate cancer by nearly 25 percent represents the culmination of three decades of research that began in the early 1970s at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

A study released online today by The New England Journal of Medicine shows that finasteride, which is already proven effective as a therapy for benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or enlargement of the prostate also delays or prevents prostate cancer and reduces the risk of urinary problems. However, the drug has significant sexual side effects and may increase the risk of high-grade prostate cancer in some patients, the study reports. The study will appear in the July 17 print edition of the journal.

Finasteride inhibits the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone by the enzyme 5-alpha reductase. By doing so, it reduces the level of dihydrotestosterone the primary androgen in the prostate that is involved in the development of prostate cancer by 90 percent.

"Dr. Jean Wilson discovered the importance of the enzyme 5-alpha reductase in prostate disease almost 30 years ago," said Dr. John McConnell, UT Southwestern's executive vice president for health system affairs and a urologist.

"Since this discovery, UT Southwestern investigators have clearly demonstrated the role of this enzyme in BPH. The exciting information in this new article is that it clearly also has an impact on prostate cancer," said Dr. McConnell, UT Southwestern's former chairman of urology and acting director of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The findings released today are the result of the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial, a 7-year study involving 9,457 men. UT Southwestern participated as a trial site in this study.

Prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of death from cancer in men in the United States, and the most common non-skin cancer in America. The American Ca

Contact: Rachel Horton
UT Southwestern Medical Center

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