According to information revealed in a new study, scientists have been able to categorize prostate cancer into five different forms, a finding which has been called a game-changer by researchers. The results of the study (published in the July journal of EBioMedicine) may very well have a significant impact on how the disease is treated in the future since doctors may now be able to tell which type of tumors a patient might have, and how aggressively or slowly they might grow.
In effect, this new information could lead to a more “tumor-specific” treatment, tailored to the patient’s specific condition.
In the past, all prostate cancer has been lumped into a single category. This has led to a certain level of inconsistency in the effectiveness of treatments since there may be a varied amount of reactions from any given patient.
According to Malcom Mason, a Professor from Cancer Research UK, one of the main reasons that prostate cancer can be difficult to treat is due to being unable to assess it’s growth rate. Up until now, there hasn’t been a reliable way to distinguish aggressive, fast-growing cancers from the slower-growing forms (which may not even cause problems in the patient’s lifetime).
He says that this results in some men not getting treatment that is intensive enough, while other men may be getting treatment that is overly aggressive, causing unnecessary side effects.
The findings presented in this study could be game-changing if the same results are replicated in larger clinical trials. Prof. Mason says that this could ultimately save lives and improve the quality of life for the thousands of men with prostate cancer, by providing more effective treatment for the men who need it.
Among American men, prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer and the second leading cause of death. The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be over 220,000 new cases of prostate cancer diagnosed and over 27,000 deaths as a result of the disease this year.
Taylor-Made Treatment Would Be Based on Specific Tumors
Based on a landmark 2010 study which used a sophisticated mapping technique on thousands of individual tumors, researchers found that breast cancer can
occur in one of ten different forms – each one having it’s own unique genetic signature.
It was the ground-breaking results from this study which led researchers from the UK’s Addenbrooke’s Hopital and the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute to apply the same techniques to the study of prostate cancer.
The study was made up of a group of 259 men, with samples of both cancerous and healthy prostate tissue taken for analysis. Researchers not only checked for abnormal genetic signatures, but also measured the behavior of 100 different genes associated with prostate cancer development.
With results very similar to the 2010 breast cancer study, the scientists discovered that there are five separate and distinct types of prostate cancers, each one having an identifying genetic fingerprint.
Also, when compared with the Gleason grading system and PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test, the procedure adopted by the study proved to be more effective than either.
The study’s author, Dr. Alastair Lamb of the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, is hopeful that the findings will prove useful in helping to expand and further progress in the treatment of the disease. According to Dr. Lamb, the next step is to corroborate the results in even larger studies and to “drill down into the molecular ‘nuts and bolts’ of each specific prostate cancer type.”
He says his goal is to conduct more research in this area in order to develop more efficient ways of treating prostate cancer in the future, and ultimately to save more live.
Recent studies have shown that the management of prostate cancer has actually improved, and that doctors have utilized more of a “watch and wait” approach, rather than more aggressive treatments (like surgery).
Even though this disease has impacted millions of men and their families, treatment options are becoming more effective now than at any other time. The latest figures provided by the American Cancer Society show that the 5-year survival rate for all diagnosed cases of prostate cancer is near 100%, while the 10- and 15- year survival rates are still well over 90%.
See Also: Prostate Supplements for BPH Treatment, Cancer Prevention & Prostate Health