Check out the Latest Weapons in the Fight Against Prostate Cancer
With med-tech companies, healthcare organizations and pharmaceutical firms all vying for the next great development in medicine, breakthroughs in prostate cancer research are common and well-documented. Backed by funding from the National Cancer Institute, many of these treatments may not have made it to market, but they’re on the cusp.
If you’re reaching the age where prostate cancer may become a cause for concern, relax a little bit. These developments in prostate cancer research are proving that this disease, or at least its least desirable outcomes, may someday be a thing of the past.
New imaging agents
In May 2021, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new form of imaging agents that are highly successful at detecting prostate cancer once it has spread through the body. This new imaging technology (developed by a firm called Lantheus) uses a tracer molecule to locate prostate-specific membrane antigens (PSMAs), which are found on prostate cancer cells.
Once injected into the bloodstream, these tracers glow on MRIs and other imaging technologies to show where the cancer has spread. This technology is particularly helpful for finding prostate cancer that’s spread to the bones, as this has historically been difficult to ascertain. Available commercially nationwide, the technology should reduce fatalities in men who already have prostate cancer.
Improvements in biopsies
Even in the recent past, doctors have relied almost exclusively on transrectal ultrasounds (TRUS) to find the correct areas to take prostate biopsies. However, this technology is somewhat outdated, and it may miss areas of the body where prostate cancer may have spread.
Color Doppler ultrasound is the next step in the evolution of this technology, creating different colors on the screen when more blood vessels are present, which is a common marker for cancerous tumors. When these areas glow on a monitor, doctors can correctly deduce where to take a biopsy, so they can avoid negative prostate cancer tests. Although this method is far from perfect—one study showed that color Doppler ultrasound missed 16 percent of clinically significant cancers—it's another arsenal in the diagnostic tool belt.
Genetic testing advancements
For men with recurrent prostate cancer, trying to pinpoint when the cancer may return is an arduous and taxing process. In most cases, it requires trial and error or more frequent routine checkups. But a genetic test just might change that.
The Decipher test is a type of genetic test that’s shown widespread accuracy in determining a man’s genetic risk for recurrent prostate cancer, for which hormone therapy is often suggested. However, this treatment can cause a loss of sexual desire, hot flashes and mood swings. To curb these side effects, the Decipher test can suggest a man’s risk, giving him and his physician access to different treatment options earlier than before.
Another recent development that’s been approved by the FDA is anti-androgen medication. Known as Zytiga, Xtandi or Erleada, these drugs can stop or minimize cancerous prostate tumors from growing by reducing the amount of testosterone a patient's body produces. In clinical trials, these drugs have been shown to delay cancer growth, giving doctors and patients more time to discuss or choose treatment options for the future.
Using the body’s natural immune system
For years, the medical community has tried to discover ways to use the body’s natural immune defense against certain cancers. With a handful of new pharmaceuticals, this treatment option looks more like a reality in the coming years.
Certain types of immunotherapy drugs coupled with bromodomain and extraterminal (BET) inhibitors may help the body target prostate cancer cells and destroy them before they can spread to other parts of the body. A generic diabetes drug known as metformin is undergoing clinical trials to determine if it can offset the side effects of hormone therapy in prostate cancer patients. The drug is highly affordable, so if it proves effective in trials, it may help patients live longer with a higher quality of living.
Prostate cancer today and a hopeful future
Even with more men opting for digital rectal exams and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests, prostate cancer remains the second-leading cause of cancer deaths, trailing only lung cancer. As many as 1 in 8 men will develop the disease and 1 in 41 will die from it. But with these developments in research and the products that follow, scientists, researchers and medical professionals are moving one step closer to prevention and eradication. While a timeline doesn’t yet exist, the future looks hopeful for men who have a high risk for prostate cancer.