Advancements in the Fight Against Prostate Cancer
The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 160,000 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed this year, making the disease the second most common form of cancer among men. With September being Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, we thought we’d take a look at some of the advancements being made to combat this disease. Research into new treatment options is steadily progressing with many promising therapies on the horizon.
What’s new on the treatment front?
Immunotherapy promises to be a key component in the fight against prostate cancer. Doctors hope that immunotherapy treatments will slow the growth of tumors enough that prostate cancer will turn into a chronic disease rather than a life-threatening disease. One such approach is a cancer vaccine (Provenge), which boosts the immune system to help it attack prostate cancer cells. The vaccine is used to treat advanced prostate cancer that’s no longer responding to hormone therapy but is causing few or no symptoms. Another promising immunotherapy treatment option includes the use of drugs known as checkpoint inhibitors. Checkpoint inhibitors work by blocking the body’s natural “shutdown” signals, allowing immune cells to get busy killing cancer cells. Essentially, the job of checkpoint inhibitors is to wake up the sleeping T-cells. Doctors are also working on experimental therapies where the patient’s own immune cells are genetically engineered to target cancer. The cells are armed with an artificial molecule that enables immune cells to recognize and kill cancer cells.
Genetic testing is another weapon which is being studied in the fight against prostate cancer. Genetic testing will help doctors predict which patients are most at risk from aggressive prostate cancer, and whether they suffer an increased chance of treatment failure. This testing will help doctors to determine the best treatment approach for patients.
New technology for prostate-cancer imaging
New technologies for imaging prostate tumors, including a new PET imaging agent which can help find prostate cancer in both early and advanced stages, are in development and will be able to help doctors detect tumors more effectively and, hopefully, improve treatment outcomes.