An experimental drug known as enobosarm is showing promise in helping to improve muscle strength and physical function among male cancer patients with low testosterone levels.
Enobosarm is the first of a new class of drugs known as selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs). These drugs are similar to steroids in their growth-enhancing effects but may have fewer side effects.
Muscle wasting is a significant problem for many cancer patients, men and women alike. It can have a serious impact on mobility, functioning, and quality of life. Low testosterone in noncancer patients may cause decreased muscle mass, depression, and sexual dysfunction. This may pose an even bigger problem for male cancer patients already experiencing low testosterone levels. Muscle atrophy and weakness can affect up to 50 percent of men undergoing treatment for late-stage cancer.
Newswise reported on a multicenter drug trial in which enobosarm significantly improved physical function among patients with low testosterone levels, as well as those with normal hormone levels. The overall study included 159 cancer patients, 65 percent of them men. Female participants were post-menopausal, and males were more than 45 years old. In addition, all patients had a cancer diagnosis, which included nonsmall cell lung cancer, colorectal cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, or breast cancer.
Among the low-testosterone group, physical function improved by 19 percent, while patients with normal hormone levels showed physical improvement by 13 percent. It is important to note that 60 percent of patients at the beginning of the study with low testosterone levels suffered from a greater decline in physical functioning and weight loss than patients with normal hormone levels.
This particular study examined a subset of this population, 93 percent of whom were male patients; 60 percent had low testosterone levels at the beginning of the trial. Investigators assigned oral enobosarm vs. placebo for 16 weeks with physical activity being assessed at the beginning and at the end using a stair-climbing test.
According to Adrian Dobs, MD, MHS, professor of medicine and oncology and vice chairwoman of the Department of Medicine, Faculty Development at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, this data provides evidence that enobosarm may play an important role in the management of cancer-related muscle wasting, even in the setting of low testosterone.
Dobs also told Newswise that enobosarm has the potential to improve physical performance and increase muscle mass, therefore providing lung cancer patients with improved strength or physical function, more independence, increased quality of life, better response to chemotherapy, and hopefully longer survival.
I'm sure many of you have witnessed this within your own cancer patient population. Muscle atrophy and weakness can have a serious impact on a patient's quality of life and function if the cancer care team doesn't closely monitor cancer-related fatigue and pain, along with nutrition status. Are any of you obtaining testosterone levels from your male cancer patients as part of your baseline assessment before starting treatment?
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