The field of oncology is experiencing a time of excitement and innovation with the development of new therapies and technologies across the board. In prostate cancer alone, huge strides are being made in clinical research away from a one-size-fits-all approach to a much more defined and targeted approach to diagnosis and treatment.
Here, Colony Brown, vice president of marketing and communications at nonprofit organization ZERO Cancer, talks through recent advances in the field, where her organization has contributed and the challenges still to be addressed.
What have been some of the most exciting advances made in prostate cancer in recent years?
The development and use of genomic tests in prostate tissue following a radical prostatectomy allows us to better understand how the disease will behave and whether the tumor is a pussy cat or a tiger. These tests also further stratify risk, providing more information on which to base treatment and disease management decisions within the physician-patient partnership.
Are there any exciting advances on the horizon for prostate cancer care?
There are several new molecules in clinical trials and other studies in place to determine the most effective sequence of treatments. In addition, there are some early detection tools in development which could have an impact in the future by helping ensure that the tumor is diagnosed at an early stage and treated based on aggressiveness of the disease. New treatment options for men who have already been diagnosed will also have potential to change cancer care.
How is ZERO involved in research to improve prostate cancer care?
Through our research fund we support ongoing clinical research at two academic medical centers –the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and the Oregon Health and Sciences University – one for early detection and one in advanced disease.
The UCSF research is evaluating new and improved methods for the early detection of prostate cancer, while the work at Oregon Health and Sciences University is targeting gene activation in late stage, or castration-resistant, prostate cancer.
ZERO has also been involved in psychosocial research with other organizations and leaders at academic medical centers to better understand the prostate cancer experience and improve quality of life for men living with prostate cancer. We are hopeful that through these collaborations we will secure grant funding to continue and expand these projects.
ZERO’s advocacy efforts have also ensured that the Department of Defense Prostate Cancer Research Program (PCRP) remains funded. Money from that program has directly supported researchers that helped bring the two leading anti-androgen drugs to market.
What do you think are some of the biggest issues in prostate cancer care currently?
Two areas are still in need of attention: knowledge and access. Awareness about personal risk and the value of early detection are always an issue.
When diagnosed at an early stage, prostate cancer has a very high – nearly 100 percent – five-year survival rate. However, for men diagnosed at an advanced stage that figure drops radically to less than 30 percent.1
For men that have been diagnosed early – with no metastases – it’s important to have as much information about their disease and how aggressive it is so they can make the best management plan with their physician.
For men living with advanced disease, knowing their treatment options and having access are key.
- Cancer.Net. Prostate Cancer – Statistics (2016). Available from: http://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/prostate-cancer/statistics (accessed September 2016).