The current standard of care in the treatment of prostate cancer is to use chemotherapy (Taxotere) only in late stage hormone refractory prostate cancer. Most other cancers use chemotherapy agents at a much earlier stage then used for prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer cells divide at a rate that is not much faster than normal cell division, thus we often say that prostate cancer is slow growing. Chemotherapy agents target and kill cells that are actively dividing. Since prostate cancer cells grow at similar rates as normal cells, the chemotherapy agents are not as effective as they otherwise would be if the cell division were faster.

Chemotherapy is a systematic treatment. The drugs circulate throughout your body and cannot discriminate normal cells from cancer cells. The chemo drugs will kill any cells it encounters that are dividing quickly. It is not possible to “aim” chemo to a specific area, thus normal cells; especially hair follicles, skin, bone marrow and gastrointestinal tract cells will be killed along with cancer cells.

Recently, there has been some experimenting with the earlier use of chemotherapy in the treatment protocol. There are no positive or negative results currently available. We will just have to wait for more information in the future.

Chemotherapy, as currently used, does provide benefits to men with advanced disease. These benefits out weight the negative effects of the drugs as they do reduce pain and extend life.

Joel T Nowak MA, MSW