Prostate cancer is a disease of the male reproductive system that affects the prostate, a gland located below men’s bladder, near the rectum and around the urethra. Its main function is to produce a fluid that combines with sperm and makes semen more liquid. The disease occurs when the cells in the prostate start to grow out of control, and it affects both the reproductive and urinary systems, causing symptoms like urinary problems, blood in the urine, erectile dysfunction, pain, and weakness or numbness in the limbs.
Estimates indicate that prostate cancer kills about 27,540 people every year in the US, but there are treatment options to address the disease. Among them, there is hormone therapy, which is designed to decrease of the levels of the male hormones androgens, in order to stop the cancer growth. There are different approaches classified as hormone therapy including surgical castration, luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) analogs, and anti-androgens like flutamide (Eulexin®), bicalutamide (Casodex®), nilutamide (Nilandron®), Enzalutamide (Xtandi®), Estrogens (female hormones), and Ketoconazole (Nizoral®).
How Flutamide Works
Flutamide is a drug treatment included in the category of hormone treatment for prostate cancer. The growth of prostate cancer is triggered by male sex hormones known as testosterone. Cancerous cells have special proteins known as receptors that take up testosterone, which is an androgen. Flutamide is an anti androgen, which means that it works by stopping the testosterone from triggering the cancerous cells to divide and grow. As a result, the drug is expected to slow the growth of the tumor and in some cases, even shrink it.
In addition, flutamide also help ease symptoms of cancer related to the short-term increase in testosterone. Some patients may be recommended a treatment with flutamide in combination with another type of drug for prostate cancer called a luteinising hormone (LH) blocker, which include Goserelin (Zoladex), Leuprorelin (Prostap), and Triptorelin. The combination of the two drugs aims to address a problem known as flare reaction, which consist on an increase in the levels of testosterone during the first days of treatment.
Flutamide to Treat Prostate Cancer
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of flutamide in the country on June 1996. It is commercialized under the brand name Eulexin to be used in the therapeutic areas of endocrinology, nephrology, oncology, family medicine, and urology. The approval was based on a study submitted by the pharmaceutical company Schering-Plough, which revealed the effectiveness of flutamide for the treatment of locally confined Stage B2-C carcinoma of the prostate in combination with LHRH agonists and radiation therapy.
Flutamide is prescribed as a tablet to be taken three times a day with a glass of water. Despite the encouraging results of the treatment with flutamide, there are also potential side effects associated to it. The most common adverse events include hot flushes and sweats, which affect three out of five men treated (60%), lowered interest in having sex (libido) and problems getting an erection (impotence), which affect about three out of 10 (30%) men but may stop after the end of the treatment, as well as breast tenderness and swelling, which occur in one out of 10 (10%) men treated.