UK drug giant GlaxoSmithKline was given a boost yesterday on findings that Avodart reduced the likelihood of prostate cancer in men considered at high risk from the disease.

According to headline results of the REduction by DUtasteride of prostate Cancer Events (REDUCE) trial, the drug cut the risk of prostate cancer in men aged between 50 and 75 with elevated levels of prostate specific antigen (PSA) – a marker for the disease – by a significant 23% over four years.

Furthermore, the trial also showed no increased risk from more aggressive tumour types in patients given Avodart (dutasteride), as seen with Merck & Co’s baldness drug Propecia (finasteride) when it was tested for prostate cancer prevention back in 2003.

Shares in the group were on the rise on both sides of the Atlantic as investors welcomed the positive findings - presented at the American Urological Association in Chicago – which could be used as a basis for extending the drug’s indication to prostate cancer.

Sizeable market
The prostate cancer market is huge as the disease is the second most common cancer in men around the globe, killing more than 221,000 every year, which equates to one death every two minutes, according to the company. So the findings not only represent a boost for the company’s cancer division, with analysts predicting blockbuster sales should the drug win an approval for prostate cancer prevention, but also offer new hope to patients at risk from the disease.

Avodart is currently indicated for the treatment of moderate-to-severe symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia in men with an enlarged prostate, and pulls in annual sales of around £400 million.