The prostate is a gland in the male reproductive system. It is located below the bladder, near the rectum and around the urethra, and its main function is to produce a liquid that is expelled during ejaculation, making the sperm more liquid. Cells usually divide and die, but when prostate cancer occurs, the cells start to grow out of control. Due to prostate cancer, patients experience symptoms like urinary problems including a slow or weak urinary stream or the need to urinate more often, especially at night, blood in the urine, erectile dysfunctionpain in the hips, back, chest, or other areas from cancer that has spread to bones, and weakness or numbness in the limbs.

There are numerous treatment options to address prostate cancer, including watchful waiting, surgery, radiation therapy, cryotherapyhormone therapy, vaccine treatment, bone-directed treatment, and chemotherapy. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of the drugs Docetaxel (Taxotere®), Cabazitaxel(Jevtana®), Mitoxantrone (Novantrone®), Estramustine (Emcyt®), Doxorubicin (Adriamycin®), Etoposide (VP-16), Vinblastine (Velban®), Paclitaxel (Taxol®), Carboplatin (Paraplatin®), and Vinorelbine (Navelbine®) for chemotherapy in the US.

How Docetaxel Works

Docetaxel is a drug treatment included in the category of taxane type drugs, which means that it was originally developed from yew tree needles. Docetaxel is used as a chemotherapy drug and is prescribed in cases of hormone-refractory metastatic prostate cancer, among many other cancers. It is used with the purpose of blocking the growth of the tumor, as it acts on the cancerous cells, preventing them from separating into two new cells.

The compound is administered as a liquid through a drip intravenously. Depending on the type of cancer, patients are treated weekly or once every three weeks, and each infusion takes about an hour. The injection may enter the vein through a thin and short tube known as cannula placed in the arm or through a central line, a portacath or a PICC line. Docetaxel is currently used in the treatment of numerous types of cancer, including breast, lung, head and neck, prostate, and stomach cancers, and is being studied for the treatment of ovarian and bladder cancers.

Docetaxel to Treat Prostate Cancer

Docetaxel is currently approved in the US for the treatment of head and neck cancer, gastric cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and non-small cell lung cancer, and it is commercialized under the brand name Taxotere, by the pharmaceutical company Aventis Pharmaceuticals, Inc. “On May 19, 2004, the FDA approved docetaxel for injection for use in combination with prednisone for the treatment of metastatic, androgen-independent (hormone-refractory) prostate cancer,” explain the National Cancer Insitute. “Safety and efficacy were demonstrated in TAX327, a randomized, multicenter global clinical trial designed to evaluate chemotherapy with docetaxel and prednisone in the treatment of men with metastatic, hormone-refractory prostate cancer.”

The study that revealed the efficacy of docetaxel included 106 patients who were treated with mitoxantrone and prednisone, weekly docetaxel and prednisone, or docetaxel once every three weeks and prednisone. The third group was the one with greater results improving survival, with a median survival of 18.9 months, compared to 16.5 months for the patients treated with mitoxantrone and prednisone. “The approved dose for this indication is 75 mg/m2 docetaxel given intravenously as a one-hour infusion every 21 days on Day 1 plus 5 mg oral prednisone twice daily for 10 cycles,” informed the National Cancer Institute. “Adverse events included anemia, neutropenia, infection, nausea, vomiting, anorexia, and fatigue.”

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