Until recently, hormone therapy was the only systemic treatment approved for advanced prostate cancer. In 2004, the FDA approved the chemotherapy drug docetaxel (marketed as Taxotere), taken with prednisone (a steroid), for the treatment of patients who no longer respond to hormone therapy. 

Taxotere, which is also approved for the treatment of breast cancer, non-small cell lung cancer and stomach cancer, works by preventing cancer cells from dividing and growing. Patients receive Taxotere, along with prednisone, through an IV. Taxotere, when used with prednisone, is the first chemotherapy drug therapy proven to help some patients with advanced prostate cancer live longer. According to studies, the average person’s life was prolonged by 2.5 months but some men gained several years. 

Some patients experience side effects from Taxotere, which are similar to most chemotherapy drugs and include nausea, possible hair loss and bone marrow suppression. Patients may also experience neuropathy – nerve damage causing tingling, numbness, or pain in the fingers or toes – and fluid retention. 

Nancy Dawson, MD, Lombardi’s prostate medical oncologist told WebMD, "Before [the approval of Taxotere] we had no chemotherapy drug shown to improve survival in metastatic prostate cancer. Now we have one. We've got a good starting place.” 

Other chemotherapy agents are currently being investigated for their efficacy in treating prostate cancer.