3 advances in prostate cancer research


According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the second most common form of cancer among men, after skin cancer.

U.S. physicians report roughly 161,000 new cases of prostate cancer each year, and more than 26,700 people die from the ailment.

Since nearly all men are at risk for prostate cancer, it's important that physicians speak with their male patients about how to identify the disease's early warning signs. Prostate cancer is treatable, and new advancements may increase the survival rate even further.

Current methods of treating prostate cancer

Today, physicians use several unique methods to treat prostate cancer. Cancer's unpredictable nature means that an effective treatment for one patient may not work for another. In some cases, a physician may have to implement several treatment strategies to stop the growth of prostate tumors:

  • Surgery: Laparoscopic and robot-assisted laparoscopic surgery removes the prostate completely.
  • Radiation: Beams of radiation are focused on the prostate - or radioactive pellets are placed directly in the prostate.
  • Vaccine: The vaccine Provenge is administered to help the body attack cancer cells.
  • Cryotherapy: Prostate cancer cells are frozen with cold gas via a narrow probe.
  • Hormone treatment: Drugs are administered to slow the production of male hormones.

These three research advancements may improve prostate cancer survival rates:

1. Identifying genetic mutations

One reason cancer is so hard to fight is because each type of cancer is different from the next. Even prostate cancer can be broken down into multiple subtypes, each which may react differently to treatment.

Researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine discovered a genetic mutation that occurs in roughly 10 percent of all prostate cancer cases. According to the team of scientists, a mutation of the Speckle Type BTB/POZ Protein (SPOP) changes the way cancer cells grow.

The study has been limited to mice so far, but the discovery could lead to more precisely targeted treatments in the future.

Nearly all men are at risk for prostate cancer.Nearly all men are at risk for prostate cancer.

2. Next-generation prostate cancer drugs

Researchers at Cleveland Clinic have shown how advanced hormonal drugs affect prostate cancer growth. Specifically, the scientists pinpointed the chemical mechanism that allows cancer cells to become resistant to therapy.

In the near future, pharmaceutical manufacturers could use this evidence to develop more aggressive drugs capable of cutting off the tumor's supply of male hormones. The research is currently in preclinical trials.

3. Hormonal therapy and radiation

Sometimes, it takes more than one form of treatment to keep prostate cancer in check. New evidence shows that hormonal therapy combined with radiation treatment could prevent recurrences of prostate cancer.

Harvard Medical School reported on a finding made by clinicians at Massachusetts General Hospital. The team found that androgen-deprivation therapy, given in combination with radiation treatment, lowers the risk of death more than radiation treatment does alone.

Each of these breakthroughs is promising, but doctors may have to wait before they can suggest them to patients. Nevertheless, these discoveries will inform future research and could lead to more effective prostate cancer treatments.

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