But the outlook is much more dim for men whose prostate cancer spreads to the bones or other distant sites. Only 28 percent are alive five years after their diagnosis.
"There are men who have serious disease, and in the years they do live they are often in pain, and in and out of the hospital," Vapiwala said.
Xofigo gives an option for at least some of them, she said.
Because the drug emits radioactive particles, it has to be given by a radiation oncologist or nuclear medicine specialist. So, smaller community hospitals may not be able to offer it, Vapiwala noted.
There's also cost. The course of six injections rings up at nearly $70,000.
The ultimate role of the drug in treating advanced prostate cancer is still in question, according to Vapiwala. A few other treatments -- hormonal therapy and two chemo drugs -- have been approved for these same patients in the past couple of years. And it's not known if Xofigo could, for example, be combined with any of those treatments.
"The right combination of treatments, and the right sequence, is still being studied," Vapiwala said.
And Parker added that no one knows yet if the drug could help people with other types of cancer that has spread to the bone. "In theory," he said, that should be the case. "But we do not yet have any data on this."
He noted that an ongoing trial is studying radium-223 for breast cancer that has spread to the bones.
The American Cancer Society has more on prostate cancer treatment.
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