Open Access Research article

Non-hormonal systemic therapy in men with hormone-refractory prostate cancer and metastases: a systematic review from the Cancer Care Ontario Program in Evidence-based Care's Genitourinary Cancer Disease Site Group

Eric Winquist1*, Tricia Waldron2, Scott Berry3, D Scott Ernst4, Sébastien Hotte5 and Himu Lukka6

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medical Oncology, London Health Sciences Centre, London, Ontario, Canada

2 Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Cancer Care Ontario Program in Evidence-based Care, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

3 Department of Medical Oncology, Toronto-Sunnybrook Regional Cancer Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

4 Division of Hematology/Oncology, Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, Miami, Florida, USA

5 Department of Medical Oncology, Juravinski Cancer Centre, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

6 Department of Radiation Oncology, Juravinski Cancer Centre, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

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BMC Cancer 2006, 6:112  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-6-112

Published: 2 May 2006



Prostate cancer that has recurred after local therapy or disseminated distantly is usually treated with androgen deprivation therapy; however, most men will eventually experience disease progression within 12 to 20 months. New data emerging from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of chemotherapy provided the impetus for a systematic review addressing the following question: which non-hormonal systemic therapies are most beneficial for the treatment of men with hormone-refractory prostate cancer (HRPC) and clinical evidence of metastases?


A systematic review was performed to identify RCTs or meta-analyses examining first-line non-hormonal systemic (cytotoxic and non-cytotoxic) therapy in patients with HRPC and metastases that reported at least one of the following endpoints: overall survival, disease control, palliative response, quality of life, and toxicity. Excluded were RCTs of second-line hormonal therapies, bisphosphonates or radiopharmaceuticals, or randomized fewer than 50 patients per trial arm. MEDLINE, EMBASE, the Cochrane Library, and the conference proceedings of the American Society of Clinical Oncology were searched for relevant trials. Citations were screened for eligibility by four reviewers and discrepancies were handled by consensus.


Of the 80 RCTs identified, 27 met the eligibility criteria. Two recent, large trials reported improved overall survival with docetaxel-based chemotherapy compared to mitoxantrone-prednisone. Improved progression-free survival and rates of palliative and objective response were also observed. Compared with mitoxantrone, docetaxel treatment was associated with more frequent mild toxicities, similar rates of serious toxicities, and better quality of life. More frequent serious toxicities were observed when docetaxel was combined with estramustine. Three trials reported improved time-to-disease progression, palliative response, and/or quality of life with mitoxatrone plus corticosteroid compared with corticosteroid alone. Single trials reported improved disease control with estramustine-vinblastine, vinorelbine-hydrocortisone, and suramin-hydrocortisone compared to controls. Trials of non-cytotoxic agents have reported equivocal results.


Docetaxel-based chemotherapy modestly improves survival and provides palliation for men with HRPC and metastases. Other than androgen deprivation therapy, this is the only other therapy to have demonstrated improved overall survival in prostate cancer in RCTs. Further investigations to identify more effective therapies for HRPC including the use of systemic therapies earlier in the natural history of prostate cancer are warranted.