Radium 223 Injections Decrease Pain, Extend Survival for Metastatic Prostate Cancer
If you or a loved one has advanced prostate cancer that has spread to the bones, getting a quick monthly IV injection could extend your life. These shots are injected into a vein through an IV line in about a minute. They contain radium 223 — a radioactive element that works to destroy prostate cancer cells.
The injections need to be given at a center that handles radiation therapies. In total, patients get a series of six injections, each given four weeks apart.
Who Is Xofigo For?
The FDA has approved Xofigo to treat advanced prostate cancer that does not respond to hormone-based treatment. This form of prostate cancer often spreads to the bone. When Xofigo targets prostate cancer cells in the bone, many patients feel less bone pain. Also, clinical studies have shown that Xofigo extends average survival by almost a third.
Are Radium 223 Injections Safe?
Even though they put radiation in the body, Xofigo injections are safe. They are designed to target cancer cells. Cancer cells absorb Xofigo while healthy cells do not. The alpha radiation waves given off by radium 223 don’t travel very far, so Xofigo is safe for you and those around you. The radiation centers on prostate cancer cells within the bone, but not much of it reaches the marrow inside the bone.
Unlike some forms of radiation that stay in your body such as brachytherapy, other people do not have to keep their distance from you after your radium 223 treatment. You can still hug your family members and friends while you get Xofigo injections.
What Are the Side Effects of Xofigo?
Most people find that their side effects, if any, are mild. These are commonly mild pain near the injection site and feeling very tired (fatigue).
Although not much of the radium 223 reaches the bone marrow, it can be enough that some patients experience low blood counts. Other possible side effects from the injections include nausea, diarrhea, and swelling of the ankles and wrists. However, most patients who experience moderate side effects like these find that having less bone pain outweighs these other issues.
What Else Do I Need to Know About Radium 223?
Although others do not need to stay away from you after your radium 223 injection, some of your bodily fluids will contain radiation. You will be given instructions about how to keep yourself and others safe. You must not expose others to your semen until at least six months after your last Xofigo injection.
Also, if you are undergoing other cancer treatment, you may need to stop it for a time before or after your Xofigo injection. Your treatment team will coordinate your care so you can benefit from both radium 223 and your other therapies.
Can Xofigo Be Used for Other Cancers That Have Spread to the Bone?
Right now, the FDA has only approved Xofigo for metastatic prostate cancer. However, it is possible that this treatment could help patients with other cancers that have spread to the bones. Clinical trials are now looking at whether Xofigo can help people with advanced breast, kidney and lung cancers. It is thought that radium 223 may make other treatments, such as chemotherapy, more effective. However, Xofigo is not yet widely available for cancers other than prostate cancer.
If you have advanced prostate cancer and want to know if Xofigo is right for you, call us for a consultation at 443-546-1300.