Abiraterone, the new prostate cancer drug

Abiraterone does not actiually cure prostate cancer. It does not kill it off. It does not kill prostate cancer cells. But it does stop them ’feeding’ and therefore it stops them growing.
It can therefore extend life greatly for those with advanced prostate cancer. But. It was originally turned down by NICE for England and Wales, in a decision about to be reversed. The Scots are waiting to see if reversal occurs oin Scotland too.
Originally NICE turned Abiraterone down on cost grounds and a lack of sufficiently robust financial analysis by Janssen, the owners. Now protesters have made NICE reconsider the drug under the ’end-of-life system.
The drug cost about 3,000 per month and is claimed to be the first new drug available to prostate patients for 40 years. In Clinical Trial abiraterone plus a steroid extended life on average by 15 months compared to the steroid only at 11 months. However, some patients have lived far longer, for example Abdelbaset al-Merahi, the infamous Lockerbie bomber.
Abiraterone was designed and developed at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and The Royal Marsden Hospital.  First synthesised in the early 1990s, this year it completed the journey from an idea to life-extending treatment for men with advanced prostate cancer.  The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of abiraterone in men with castration-resistant prostate cancer in April 2011, and European approval followed in September 2011.
In the 1990s, the ICR’s Professor Mike Jarman and colleagues Dr Elaine Barrie and Professor Gerry Potter, working in what is now the Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit, started to look for drugs that could shut off the production of the male sex hormone androgen. They reasoned that prostate cancers that became resistant to hormonal treatment were able to get androgens from elsewhere in the body to keep growing, including perhaps the tumour itself. If they could disrupt the synthesis of androgen perhaps they could develop a new treatment for the disease.
The team started with a drug called ketoconazole, which they noticed prevented the growth of prostate cancer cells. The drug worked by inhibiting an enzyme called CYP17, which is important in the production of male sex hormones. Ketoconazole is used in treating prostate cancer but research showed it was not very potent, not sufficiently specific and was quickly broken down by the body.
The team then embarked on a search for a better mousetrap and were rewarded when Professor Potter and Dr Barrie designed and evaluated a chemical called CB7598, filing for a patent in 1993. A year later the team published the first paper describing CB7598, which they called abiraterone. A paper followed describing the rationale behind the development of abiraterone and how it was synthesised. The drug specifically and irreversibly blocked  CYP17.  Blocking this enzyme prevented androgen from being made anywhere in the body.
Professor Gerry Potter of Medicinal Chemistry at DeMonfort University Leicester School of Pharmacy is also credited with work on Salvestrols. Unfortunately in the 20 years following his discovery of ’wonder drug’ CB7598, Gerry had to be Sectioned for his own safety; his relentless work ethic shattered his sanity. (http://www.thisisleicestershire.co.uk/Private-hell-Leicester-scientist-searching-cancer-wonder-drug/story-12084144-detail/story.html)

April - June Cancer Watch 2012
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