What is enzalutamide?
Enzalutamide (Xtandi®) is a type of hormone therapy for men with prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body (advanced prostate cancer).
Enzalutamide works by blocking the effect of the hormone testosterone on prostate cancer cells. Without testosterone, the prostate cancer cells can’t grow, even if they have spread to other parts of the body.
Enzalutamide has been shown to help some men live longer. It can also help to treat or delay symptoms, such as pain and bone problems.
Who can have enzalutamide?
It is usually offered to men with advanced prostate cancer whose prostate cancer has stopped responding to other types of hormone therapy. But you may be offered enzalutamide as a first treatment for advanced prostate cancer.
If you’ve had abiraterone, enzalutamide may not be suitable for you. Read more below.
When would I have enzalutamide?
Enzalutamide after hormone therapy
You may be offered enzalutamide if you have advanced prostate cancer that has stopped responding to other types of hormone therapy. You may hear this called hormone-relapsed or castrate-resistant prostate cancer.
Enzalutamide as a first treatment
Your doctor may offer you enzalutamide when you are first diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. This cancer is likely to respond to standard hormone therapy. You may hear this called hormone-sensitive prostate cancer.
Enzalutamide or abiraterone?
Your doctor will talk to you about which drug is most suitable for you. For example, enzalutamide may be a better option than abiraterone if your cancer has spread to the liver or lungs, or if you can’t take steroids. Abiraterone must be taken with a steroid.
But abiraterone may be a better option than enzalutamide if you’ve had:
- any falls
- any seizures (fits) or you have an increased risk of seizures
- extreme tiredness (fatigue)
- problems with memory or concentration.
This is because enzalutamide can increase your risk of these problems.
Some men may find enzalutamide easier to take because, unlike abiraterone, you don’t need to take it on an empty stomach and you don’t need to take steroids. But some men want to avoid the tiredness that enzalutamide can cause, and prefer to take abiraterone.
I’ve had abiraterone, can I have enzalutamide?
You will only be able to have either enzalutamide or abiraterone. You cannot have both treatments. For example, if you decide to have enzalutamide to treat your advanced prostate cancer and it stops working, you won’t be able to have abiraterone. This is because research suggests that men who have already had one of these drugs don’t benefit from the other drug.
However, if you have severe side effects from abiraterone you may be offered enzalutamide.
Speak to your doctor or specialist nurse about which treatments might be suitable for you and when to have them. You can also talk things through with our Specialist Nurses.
If you’re having trouble getting enzalutamide, even though your doctor thinks it is suitable for you, please let us know.
Other health problems and medicines
Tell your doctor if you have any heart or kidney problems. Enzalutamide may not be suitable for you if you’ve had seizures, a stroke or injury to your brain in the past, alcohol dependence or if the cancer has spread to your brain.
Enzalutamide may affect how some other medicines work. And some medicines can affect how well enzalutamide works. Tell your doctor if you are taking medicines for any other health problems, including:
- high cholesterol
- severe anxiety or schizophrenia
- sleep problems
- heart problems
- high blood pressure
- thyroid problems
- acid reflux or gastric/intestine sores (gastric/duodenal ulcers)
Other treatment options
If enzalutamide isn’t suitable for you, or if you choose not to have it, your doctor may offer you a different treatment. Possible treatments for advanced prostate cancer that has stopped responding to other types of hormone therapy include:
- chemotherapy (docetaxel or cabazitaxel)
- treatments to manage symptoms
- very rarely, oestrogens.
Speak to your doctor about your treatment options. They can also tell you about any clinical trials that might be suitable for you.
Read more about treatment options after your first hormone therapy.
What does treatment involve?
Enzalutamide is usually taken as four tablets, once a day. You should take the tablets at the same time each day and swallow them whole with water. You can take the tablets with or without food.
If you were having hormone therapy before starting enzalutamide, you will probably continue having it together with enzalutamide, even if it’s stopped working so well. Read more about what happens when your first hormone therapy isn’t working so well.
If enzalutamide is your first treatment, you will also be given another type of hormone therapy at the same time.
For most men, the extra hormone therapy taken with enzalutamide will be a monthly, or every three to six monthly injection. This will help to keep the amount of testosterone in your body low. This may help enzalutamide to work.
How long will my treatment last?
You will have enzalutamide until it stops working or if you get severe side effects. You will have a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test to see if enzalutamide is still working. Read more about tests to find out if enzalutamide is still working.
What are the side effects?
Like all treatments, enzalutamide can cause side effects. These may affect each man differently, and you’re unlikely to get all the possible side effects. Before you start treatment, your doctor or nurse will explain the possible side effects. Knowing what to expect can help you deal with them. You can find more information in the leaflet that comes with your medicine or from the Electronic Medicines Compendium.
Common side effects include:
- extreme tiredness (fatigue)
- hot flushes
- high blood pressure
- feeling nervous
- problems with memory and concentration
- dry or itchy skin
- swelling of the breast area (gynaecomastia)
- an uncontrollable urge to move a part of your body, usually your legs (restless leg syndrome)
- blockage of arteries in the heart (coronary heart disease).
Less common side effects include:
- pain in your muscles, bones, back or joints
- loose and watery bowel movements (diarrhoea)
- difficulty emptying your bowels (constipation).
Taking enzalutamide can increase your risk of falling, which could mean you’re more likely to break a bone. You can help keep your bones strong and reduce your risk of severe bone thinning (osteoporosis) by making changes to your lifestyle. If you already have osteoporosis, your doctor may suggest taking medicines, such as bisphosphonates, to help reduce the risk of broken bones.
There is also a small risk of having a seizure (fit). This is rare, and may be more likely if you:
- have had seizures before
- drink large amounts of alcohol
- have had other health problems, such as a head injury, some types of stroke or cancer in the brain.
Some medicines increase the risk of having a seizure, including medicines to treat asthma, depression, schizophrenia and pain. Speak to your doctor about whether you have an increased risk of having a seizure and whether it’s safe for you to drive and operate machinery.
Speak to your doctor or nurse if you have any side effects from taking enzalutamide, even if they’re not listed here. They may offer you other treatments to help manage any side effects.
If you’re sexually active and there is a chance your partner could become pregnant, use a condom together with another form of contraception while you are taking enzalutamide and for three months after. If your partner is pregnant, you should use a condom if you have sex, as enzalutamide could harm the baby.
What happens next?
You may have a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test at least every two or three months while you’re taking enzalutamide. You may also have blood tests and blood pressure checks about once a month. Ask your doctor which tests you will have and how often you’ll have them.
Your PSA levels alone aren’t usually enough to know if your treatment is working. Your doctor will use your PSA level and any other test results, along with information about how you’re feeling, to check how well the treatment is working. Tell your doctor or nurse about any side effects you’re having, as there may be ways to manage these.
If your PSA level falls, this usually suggests your treatment is working. How quickly the PSA level falls, and how low, will vary from man to man.
In some men, the PSA level won’t fall. This alone doesn’t mean that enzalutamide isn’t working. Your doctor will also ask you about any symptoms you’re having. You may have scans, such as MRI, CT or bone scans, particularly if your PSA level is rising. Your doctor may suggest you keep taking enzalutamide or, if they’re concerned the cancer is growing, they may talk to you about other treatment options.
For more information about enzalutamide, speak to your doctor or nurse, or call our Specialist Nurses.
Updated: September 2023 | Due for review: September 2026
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- Deborah Victor, Uro-Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist, Royal Cornwall Hospital
- Joe O'Sullivan, Consultant Clinical Oncologist, Belfast City Hospital
- Nicola Lancaster, Macmillan Metastatic Prostate Cancer Clinical Nurse Specialist
- Philip Reynolds, Consultant Therapeutic Radiographer, Clatterbridge Cancer Centre
- Our Specialist Nurses
- Our Volunteers.