The Search for Better Prostate Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment

11 April 2011

I’ve mentioned several advancements and new findings in prostate cancer screening methods over the past few months: liquid biopsy screening; the benefits of PSA screening (as well as the controversy); and even the link between balding and prostate cancer.  I also covered prostate cancer treatment options in my last post, and work hard to clear up misconceptions people may have about surgical treatment; such as being too overweight to be a candidate for it or not being able to have surgery due to previous radiation therapy.

A major purpose of this blog is to share this information with as many people as possible; to make them aware of the options currently available for themselves or their loved ones, in addition to making people aware of what the future holds not only for prostate cancer treatment, but treatment of cancer in general.  This week I wanted to discuss a couple new screening and treatment discoveries that may have an effect on how we treat cancer a couple years down the line.

For those of you who follow my blog I’m sure you’ve seen mention of a study that calls the efficacy of PSA (prostate-specific antigen) testing into question.  I, personally, do not agree with the conclusion that the study presents and remain an advocate for regular PSA testing.  With that said, I welcome additional screening methods that can better prevent doctors from performing unneeded biopsies and treatments.  A new, more advanced and more accurate PSA test has recently been announced that hopefully will allow just that.  This new method looks at a more specific portion of PSA called (-2) Pro-PSA, and then compares it versus free-PSA and total PSA through a mathematical formula.  The end result is that a high Pro-PSA and total PSA, and a low free-PSA, is a good indicator of the presence of aggressive forms of prostate cancer which would require treatment.  This new test has been approved for use in Europe, and will hopefully see use in the US soon.

In addition to this new screening method, there have been two recent discoveries in possible prostate cancer treatment methods.  The first comes in the form of a medication that has already been widely used for treatment of heart disease called “digoxin.” A recent study has shown there to be a potential link between the use of this drug and a lower incidence of the development of prostate cancer.  This was found by a process called “drug repositioning” in which research is done on existing drugs to see any additional effects that they had during their intended usage over the years.  It was found that regular users of the drug had a 24% reduction in the incidence of prostate cancer, and those who used it for 10 years saw a 46% reduction in risk.  While more testing would need to be done on the specific effects that digoxin plays on the development of prostate cancer, this gives researches a starting point and a long history of information about the drug that they can leverage.

A new, potential treatment for prostate cancer has also been developed that uses a patient’s white blood cells to carry a cancer-destroying virus.  While this technology is still very new it shows a lot of promise.  It works by carrying the infected cells to the location of the tumor, and upon being exposed to the low-oxygen environment of the tumor the cells are triggered to create more of the virus – which in turn dissolves the cancer from within.  Using this type of virus itself is not a new advancement, but the replication process is.  This new method allows for better accuracy and treatment while requiring a smaller initial amount of the virus to be injected, and also protects it from the body’s natural immune response.  What’s exciting about this is that by changing the trigger parameters, this method can be modified to treat other cancer types as well.

It’s always interesting for me to see the ideas that researchers come up with that allow doctors to better diagnose and treat their patients.  As long as this research is being conducted I’ll remain dedicated to sharing this information with my readers.  With prostate cancer affecting 1 out of 6 men in their lifetime this is an important topic of discussion, and education goes a long way in saving the lives of those affected by this disease.

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