Understanding Biological Hormone Therapy for Cancer Treatment
What is Biological Hormone Therapy?
Consumers and patients should understand that biological hormone therapy is not the same thing as hormone replacement therapy, most commonly prescribed for post-menopausal women to reduce hot flashes and discomfort caused by a marked decrease in the female hormone estrogen following cessation of menstruation. Biological hormone therapies are also known as "anti-estrogen therapy" and are frequently used to help the immune system fight against some types of cancer, most especially forms of breast and prostate cancer.
Many "anti-estrogen" medications have the ability to literally block the ability of estrogen to develop and multiple, which in many cases feeds the rapid growth of cancer cells, especially found in the breast.
For many years, Tamoxifen was the drug of choice for biological hormone therapy treatments, but these days, advances in research and development have offered a wide range of therapy possibilities for cancer sufferers.
Who Benefits from Biological Hormone Therapy?
Individuals diagnosed with breast cancer are not the only ones to benefit from biological hormone therapy treatments these days. Men suffering from prostate cancer are also benefiting. Prognosis and designated treatment regimens will depend on type of cancer, how advanced it is, whether treatment is in early or late stages, as well as the type of biological hormone therapy chosen for such treatment.
In most cases, a physician will determine treatments. Patients in early stages of certain types of cancer, as well as those diagnosed with advanced hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer benefit most from such methods of treatment.
Common Biological Hormone Therapy Treatments
Today, the most commonly used biological hormone therapy treatments include but are not limited to:
AROMATASE Inhibitors-help to stifle the conversion of substances into estrogen, which helps to stop production in many cells of the body. This type of drug is recommended for post-menopausal women. Types include:
SERMs ( Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators)-these block estrogens from attaching to receptors on cancer cells, which helps to slow the growth and spread of cancers. Types include:
ERDs ( Estrogen-Receptor Downregulators) block and break down estrogen receptors, reducing the number of cancer cells that receive messages to grow. Such an estrogen-receptor down regulator is:
Other new biological therapies being used to treat breast cancers include but are not limited to:
Men suffering from prostate cancer benefit from androgen deprivation therapies (ADT). Anti-androgens block the body's capability to use androgens. Such drugs, commonly known as LHRH (luteinizing hormone-releasing) analogs lower testosterone levels and include drugs such as:
Cost of Biological Hormone Therapy
Costs of biological hormone therapy treatments vary according to drug of choice, dosage, method of treatment (injection, oral or otherwise) and type of cancer as well as the stage of cancer being treated. In the United States, price ranges for Avastin may cost up to $4,400 a month, while Herceptin costs an average of $3,000 a month. Newer drugs may cost patients more than $10,000 a month!
Many residents in the United States choose not to receive treatment at such high costs, which devastate family incomes, financial security and retirement savings. Some medical travelers to other countries such as India may save substantial amounts of money on biological hormone therapy drugs.
For example, in India, a year's supply of Herceptin averages out to about $2,000 a month instead of the $3,000 a month in the U.S. In other locations such as Thailand and Singapore, medical travelers are also able to enjoy substantial savings.
However, the dire need of many patients for such drugs is prompting cancer drug related costs, studies and statistics that may help to lower the costs of such treatments worldwide.