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Keywords:

  • androgen-independent prostate cancer;
  • PSA;
  • estramustine;
  • docetaxel;
  • paclitaxel;
  • calcitriol;
  • thalidomide

Of men with metastatic prostate cancer who undergo androgen ablation, 70–80% respond rapidly to therapy, as manifested by a reduction in prostate cancer-related symptoms and declines in serum prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level. Unfortunately, after a median of 18–24 months, nearly all patients with metastatic prostate cancer will progress to androgen independence. Until recently the standard of care for treating hormone-refractory prostate cancer (HRPCa) was the combination of mitoxantrone and prednisone, which palliated bone pain but did not extend survival. Two randomized trials with > 1700 patients showed for the first time a survival benefit for patients with HRPC treated with chemotherapy; when compared with mitoxantrone-based therapy, docetaxel based-therapy reduced the risk of death by 20–24%. Future trials in HRPC are attempting to improve the efficacy of docetaxel by incorporating new agents targeting angiogenesis, apoptosis, and signal transduction pathways; there is promising activity for these novel combinations in phase I and II studies. Concepts are also being refined about definitions of response and progressive disease, patient eligibility criteria, and the validity of surrogate markers of efficacy and survival, as shown by changes in PSA level.