Androgen suppression monotherapy for treatment of advanced prostate cancer

Review question

We reviewed the evidence on the effects of androgen suppression monotherapies (non-steroidal antiandrogens compared with medical or surgical castration monotherapy) in men with advanced prostate cancer.

Background

Prostate cancer is among the top six most lethal cancers, and treatment implies a high disease burden for patients. An advanced prostate cancer has spread outside the prostate gland or has metastasised to lymph nodes, bones and/or other areas. Currently no curative therapy for advanced prostate cancer is known, although androgen suppression therapy is commonly used to treat the disease at this stage. We wanted to discover the effects of androgen suppression monotherapies in the treatment of patients in advanced stages of prostate cancer.

Study characteristics

The evidence is current to December 2013. We included 11 studies involving 3060 randomly assigned participants at advanced stages of prostate cancer. The follow-up period of participants ranged from six months to six years. In seven studies, authors reported possible conflicts of interest. In three studies, no conflicts of interest were declared. In one study, authors reported that they had received an educational grant from the sponsor, who had no role in any aspect of analysis or data interpretation.

Key results

Use of non-steroidal antiandrogens decreased overall survival and increased clinical progression and treatment failure. Subgroup analyses showed that non-steroidal antiandrogens, compared with castration, were less favourable for overall survival, for clinical progression and for treatment failure in men with metastatic disease. Participants receiving antiandrogens were also more likely to stop treatment as the result of side effects. The risk of suffering breast pain, enlargement of breast tissue or symptoms of physical weakness was also increased with non-steroidal antiandrogens. The risks of feeling intense heat with sweating and rapid heartbeat and of bleeding, the need to get up in the night to urinate, loss of sexual interest, extreme tiredness and the need to urinate more often than usual were increased with castration. No difference was noted for other side effects. The effect of non-steroidal antiandrogens on cancer-specific survival and biochemical progression remained unclear.

Quality of the evidence

Included studies were poorly conducted, and the quality of evidence was rated as moderate. This means that further research is likely to have an important impact on our confidence in the accuracy of results.

Authors' conclusions: 

Currently available evidence suggests that use of non-steroidal antiandrogen monotherapy compared with medical or surgical castration monotherapy for advanced prostate cancer is less effective in terms of overall survival, clinical progression, treatment failure and treatment discontinuation due to adverse events. Evidence quality was rated as moderate according to GRADE. Further research is likely to have an important impact on results for patients with advanced but non-metastatic prostate cancer treated with non-steroidal antiandrogen monotherapy. However, we believe that research is likely not necessary on non-steroidal antiandrogen monotherapy for men with metastatic prostate cancer. Only high-quality, randomised controlled trials with long-term follow-up should be conducted. If further research is planned to investigate biochemical progression, studies with standardised follow-up schedules using measurements of prostate-specific antigen based on current guidelines should be conducted.

Read the full abstract...
Background: 

Non-steroidal antiandrogens and castration are the main therapy options for advanced stages of prostate cancer. However, debate regarding the value of these treatment options continues.

Objectives: 

To assess the effects of non-steroidal antiandrogen monotherapy compared with luteinising hormone–releasing hormone agonists or surgical castration monotherapy for treating advanced stages of prostate cancer.

Search strategy: 

We searched the Cochrane Prostatic Diseases and Urologic Cancers Group Specialized Register (PROSTATE), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE, EMBASE, Web of Science with Conference Proceedings, three trial registries and abstracts from three major conferences to 23 December 2013, together with reference lists, and contacted selected experts in the field and manufacturers.

Selection criteria: 

We included randomised controlled trials comparing non-steroidal antiandrogen monotherapy with medical or surgical castration monotherapy for men in advanced stages of prostate cancer.

Data collection and analysis: 

One review author screened all titles and abstracts; only citations that were clearly irrelevant were excluded at this stage. Then, two review authors independently examined full-text reports, identified relevant studies, assessed the eligibility of studies for inclusion, assessed trial quality and extracted data. We contacted the study authors to request additional information. We used Review Manager 5 for data synthesis and used the fixed-effect model for heterogeneity less than 50%; we used the random-effects model for substantial or considerable heterogeneity.

Main results: 

Eleven studies involving 3060 randomly assigned participants were included in this review. The quality of evidence is hampered by risk of bias. Use of non-steroidal antiandrogens decreased overall survival (hazard ratio (HR) 1.24, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.05 to 1.48, six studies, 2712 participants) and increased clinical progression (one year: risk ratio (RR) 1.25, 95% CI 1.08 to 1.45, five studies, 2067 participants; 70 weeks: RR 1.26, 95% CI 1.08 to 1.45, six studies, 2373 participants; two years: RR 1.14, 95% CI 1.04 to 1.25, three studies, 1336 participants), as well as treatment failure (one year: RR 1.19, 95% CI 1.02 to 1.38, four studies, 1539 participants; 70 weeks: RR 1.27, 95% CI 1.05 to 1.52, five studies, 1845 participants; two years: RR 1.14, 95% CI 1.05 to 1.24, two studies, 808 participants), compared with medical or surgical castration. The quality of evidence for overall survival, clinical progression and treatment failure was rated as moderate according to GRADE. Predefined subgroup analyses showed that use of non-steroidal antiandrogens, compared with castration, was less favourable for overall survival, clinical progression (at one year, 70 weeks, two years) and treatment failure (at one year, 70 weeks, two years) in men with metastatic disease. Use of non-steroidal antiandrogens also increased the risk for treatment discontinuation due to adverse events (RR 1.82, 95% CI 1.13 to 2.94, eight studies, 1559 participants), including events such as breast pain (RR 22.97, 95% CI 14.79 to 35.67, eight studies, 2670 participants), gynaecomastia (RR 8.43, 95% CI 3.19 to 22.28, nine studies, 2774 participants) and asthenia (RR 1.77, 95% CI 1.36 to 2.31, five studies, 2073 participants). The risk of other adverse events, such as hot flashes (RR 0.23, 95% CI 0.19 to 0.27, nine studies, 2774 participants), haemorrhage (RR 0.07, 95% CI 0.01 to 0.54, two studies, 546 participants), nocturia (RR 0.38, 95% CI 0.20 to 0.69, one study, 480 participants), fatigue (RR 0.52, 95% CI 0.31 to 0.88, one study, 51 participants), loss of sexual interest (RR 0.50, 95% CI 0.30 to 0.83, one study, 51 participants) and urinary frequency (RR 0.22, 95% CI 0.11 to 0.47, one study, 480 participants) was decreased when non-steroidal antiandrogens were used. The quality of evidence for breast pain, gynaecomastia and hot flashes was rated as moderate according to GRADE. The effects of non-steroidal antiandrogens on cancer-specific survival and biochemical progression remained unclear.

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