Aside from skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men. Because of this, prostate cancer research has been an ongoing process of looking into causes, prevention, detection, and treatment of the disease. But with hundreds upon hundreds of published studies out there, how can patients keep up with what’s new? Since September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, it’s a great time to discuss the new developments that are being made in prostate cancer treatment.
Here are three big prostate cancer treatment advancements that can change how prostate cancer is detected and treated:
1. Genetic & Genomic Testing is Now Available for Prostate Cancer
Genes can play a role in both the development and behavior of prostate cancer. Two types of tests that can be helpful in gathering this information are genetic testing and genomic testing. While they sound similar, they collect different information.
Genetic testing is used more frequently to define men who are at a higher risk of developing cancer but have yet to get cancer. People who have a known family history of prostate cancer may want to investigate further with genetic testing to see if they carry a gene mutation that puts them at risk. New research on gene changes linked to prostate cancer is helping scientists better understand how prostate cancer develops.
Genomic testing, on the other hand, is done for patients who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer in hopes of determining how cancer might behave. This information can be beneficial in deciding the course of care for your cancer. Some of the genomic tests available now include Decipher, Oncotype DX, ProstaVysion, and the Prolaris Test.
Depending on a patient’s circumstances, an oncologist may recommend one or both tests. Not only can it help steer the type of treatment recommended it can also provide important information for family members who may be trying to determine their own risk for developing prostate cancer.
2. Earlier Detection
Cancer researchers are trying to develop a better prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, which could lead to earlier prostate cancer detection (PSA is a protein that is produced exclusively by prostate cells. An overabundance of this protein may indicate that cancer is present).
Additionally, cancer researchers are developing a urine test to find a gene called prostate cancer gene 3 (PCA3), which could also help detect prostate cancer more quickly. When a man has prostate cancer, PCA3 is made in larger amounts. More accurate testing could help prostate cancer doctors decide if a biopsy of the prostate is needed. With a more effective testing method, healthier men could be screened for prostate cancer, resulting in prostate cancers being found and treated earlier.
New technologies for imaging tumors are also in development. More precise pictures could help prostate cancer specialists find smaller tumors more effectively and earlier, which could lead to improved outcomes.
3. Immunotherapy for Prostate Cancer
The goal of immunotherapy is to boost the body’s immune system to help fight off or destroy cancer cells. Prostate cancer has seen much promise and potential for changing the way this disease is treated by using immunotherapy.
Prostate cancer immunotherapy studies are being conducted in the following seven categories:
Therapeutic vaccines: intended to treat or cure a disease by stimulating the immune system
Oncolytic virus therapies: intended to kill cancer cells and stimulate an immune response against tumors
Checkpoint inhibitors: drugs that block normal proteins on cancer cells, or the proteins on the T-cells that respond to them
Adoptive cell therapies: the collection of T-cells from the blood, which are then modified, and injected back into the patient so they can better recognize cancer cells in the body
Adjuvant immunotherapies: substances used to boost the immune system so the patient’s response to therapeutic vaccines can be improved
Cytokines: the injection of laboratory-produced cytokines (proteins that boost the immune system) to increase the number of ones the body would normally produce
Monoclonal antibodies: antibodies designed in a lab that specifically target a certain antigen, such as one found on cancer cells
According to the American Cancer Society, one promising approach for the future might be to combine a checkpoint inhibitor with a prostate cancer vaccine. This combination could strengthen the immune response and help a vaccine be more effective.
Most new prostate cancer treatment options are developed through prostate cancer clinical trials. Prostate cancer research trials are designed to test new ways to prevent, find, diagnose, treat, and manage the disease more effectively.
The cancer specialists at Compass Oncology are deeply committed to advancing the science of oncology. Through our participation in US Oncology Research, our oncologists have helped play a role in the development of more than 70 FDA-approved cancer therapies and we offer clinical trials that are not available anywhere else in the Portland and Vancouver area. Don’t hesitate to speak with your prostate cancer specialist today about the possibility of joining a prostate cancer clinical trial.