Harvard Med School Updates Prostate Cancer Tests

April 3rd, 2015

Harvard Medical School brings us up to date with a summary of how researchers are looking for better biomarkers to screen for the presence of prostate cancer.

Biomarkers, to begin with, are indicators that help differentiate cancer cells from normal ones. Since the 90s we have relied on PSA ( prostate specific antigens ) tests to help distinguish prostate cancer cells from normal ones. What this PSA test does is look for high levels of PSA in the blood which MIGHT indicate the presence of cancer cells. But the problem is it might NOT. It could simply indicate there is something going on with the prostate that is not cancerous.

It could simply suggest a benign condition. Perhaps the prostate is enlarged—yet benign. So the PSA test, at the moment the only tool in the tool box, to help hunt for prostate cancer cells could present a benign condition of the gland. Even if the PSA proves to be positive, the test alone does not tell you which cancers are aggressive and need treatment and which are slow-growing and can be managed more conservatively. So, scientists are busy looking for other tests that can clearly identify prostate cancer and tests that can determine whether a detectable cancer is aggressive or not.

Here is a list of promising research methods currently being carried out by cancer institutes and universities:

 Urine-based biomarkers: The prostate releases material that can be detected and measured in the urine. New urine tests can detect changes in genes and biomarkers that are specific to prostate cancer. The results of these neTagsw tests can help pinpoint whether a biopsy is necessary.

 Genetic tests of prostate tissue: Scientists are looking now at newer and more sophisticated tests that detect markers of specific genes that help doctors distinguish between the slow-growing and more aggressive forms of prostate cancer. These tests can even find hidden cancers in men whose biopsies were negative.

 Circulating tumor cells: Cancer spreads when tumor cells break away and get swept into the bloodstream. That’s when they begin growing in other parts of the body—bones, lymph nodes, etc. Another test being investigated is called “liquid biopsy.” Here a simple blood test captures and measures circulating tumor cells and their corresponding telltale markers. It should be noted that this kind of test is purely investigative and not yet readily available. Yet, when it will be it could one day reduce the need for follow-up biopsies and help determine when prostate cancer treatment is working.

 

We’re Back!

April 2nd, 2015

Sorry for the disruption but our site is now back up again.  Our mission continues.

More Reasons to Knock off Smoking

February 15th, 2015

According to Scientific American magazine, cigarette smoke remains “ the single greatest controllable risk factor for lung cancer and the most common preventable cause of all premature deaths in the United States.” Statistics show that half of all smokers die prematurely of diseases that are related to smoking.

And while the figures go on to point out that the risk of lung cancer is greatest among those who begin smoking at an early age, the practice of daily smoking among many young people continues unabated. More shocking still is the number of hospital and health related employees who should know better, but who continue to smoke. You see many parading outside of their institutions, some even in surgical gowns.

For prostate cancer patients, word from a study at New York’s famed Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center could not be more sobering: “ those who were still smoking at the time of their radiation therapy for prostate cancer had worse outcomes following radiation treatment compared to those who had never smoked.”

In that same study on a review of 2,156 prostate cancer patients at MSKCC treated with radiation therapy between 1988 and 2005, compared to non-smokers and smokers had:

  • A 40 percent increased risk for PSA relapse following treatment
  • Double the risk in developing distant metastases
  • Double the risk of death from prostate cancer
  • An 80 percent increase in urinary incontinence, obstruction

According to doctors at Johns Hopkins if you stop smoking, within 24 hours your heart rate returns to normal. Your blood level of carbon monoxide declines. Carbon monoxide cuts down the blood’s ability to carry oxygen. Your risk of a heart attack declines. And your lung function improves significantly over time.

Doubters of scientific proof are quick to suggest that e-cigarettes are perfectly safe. E-cigarettes are gaining in popularity in the U.S. Manufacturers, retailers and advertisers are claiming that these cigarettes are “healthier” than ordinary cigarettes and can even help people stop smoking altogether.

The truth is that these battery-operated e-cigarettes heat up a liquid containing nicotine mixed with flavorings and create a vapor or mist that is then inhaled.

But and it’s a big but—there is no scientific long term evidence to support the claims that are made that these products are safe. The jury on e-cigarettes is still out.

And for now, the best advice remains: Stop smoking. FDA strategies to put down those cigarettes include: nicotine-replacement products; oral medications like Chantix; and when all else fails, counseling and support.

 

Nighttime Urintating: What Can You Do About It?

February 15th, 2015

Many prostate patients suffer from what is called nocturia. That’s but a fancy of way of saying they have to run to the bathroom frequently to urinate at night. But you don’t have to be a prostate patient to experience nocturia. In fact, you don’t even have to be a male. Men and women alike suffer from nocturia and find themselves running to the bathroom a lot at night. It can disturb your partner in addition to disrupting your own sleep. So, can anything be done about it or must you go about suffering this indignity? The answer is, yes, Virginia, you can do something about it. But before we tell you what you can do, let’s tell you what’s going on here and why you are on the run at bedtime.

First of all, prostate patients, if you have an enlarged prostate, you may find yourself suffering from nighttime urinary frequency. And many men complain that despite what is called prostate-directed treatment offered by your urologist just isn’t doing the trick.

Nocturia is caused by an aging bladder, and it’s the result of changes in the bladder wall and changes in nerve signals that tell the bladder to relax. So just as we find that our joints and muscles are not as flexible when we are older as they were when we were younger, we find that there is a loss of elasticity in the bladder as we age. And with loss of elasticity in the bladder, pressure within the bladder rises at lower volumes and the brain receives a signal more frequently that the bladder is full! Result: a trip to the bathroom. Besides, there’s our biologic clock messing us up. It’s responsible for the body’s daily rhythms, and while it’s supposed to tell the body to re-absorb water so we can sleep undisturbed, guess what? It slips up and there is no watchmaker in sight. So it’s back to the bathroom once again.

Now that you understand urinary mechanics 101, what can you do about it?

1)    Significantly cut back on all beverages in the evening. Especially, drinks containing caffeine and/or alcohol.

2)    Wear compression stockings. If you are retaining fluid in the lower part of your legs and feet, wearing compression stockings before going to bed could help reduce the fluid retention and the increased urination at night.

3)    If you are on diuretic medications (water pills) for treating high blood pressure, talk to your doctor about changing the time you take the pills. A lot of patients find that when they take their meds in mid to late afternoon—6 hours before bedtime—their nighttime urination problems are resolved.

If you suffer from sleep apnea, speak to your doctor about ways you can adjust your CPAP (continuous positive-flow airway pressure ) device. There are special ways for apnea patients to reduce nocturia.

 

 

No Info Slowdown…We’re Up to Speed

January 10th, 2015

You may be wondering why you haven’t  seen many daily postings with regard to advances in prostate cancer  research of late.  That’s not because we have been derelict or fallen off the wagon, so to speak.  It’s simply because we post what we consider significant advances that you can relate to or we think you might find of interest.  It’s not that a lot of research has not been going on.  But much of it has been in the realm of genetics and is either too esoteric or too nascent to report.  For those who want or need to find out about the disease, we can assure you the information you need is all here.  What you have to do is scroll to the bottom of our blog pages ( older entries ) and read what has been posted.  We believe you can find it all on this site without the need to search the internet.  If you need to know more and don’t  find it posted, please let us know and we will do our best to get you answers. Be assured when there is a major breakthrough, we will post it immediately. Of course, if you want to have the information at hand and in your own hands, please consider buying our book.

The Authors

Prostate Cancer Survivors Speak Their Minds

 

 

Gene Repair Studies Could Lead to Killing Cancer Cells

January 2nd, 2015

Research to discover “killing fields” for cancer cells is in high gear. Latest efforts to find ways to destroy cancer cells comes from laboratories at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland. The studies we refer to focus on combining genetic and biochemical components. Here the idea is to increase the presence of a tumor-suppressing protein ( called p53BP1) that, in turn, leads cancer cells to self-destruct. What the protein does is weaken cancer cells, leaving them susceptible to existing cancer-fighting drugs.

Now, the idea is to take the lab findings and test result in animal models, and if the findings hold up in animal studies, they could hold the promise of increasing the effectiveness of radiation and chemotherapy in shrinking—even  eliminating tumors. ( Details can be found in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Nov 24, 2014 issue. )

The researchers had been trying to figure out how to repair breaks in DNA strands. Breaks that may have been caused by radiation, chemical agents or bodily functions. That’s when they happened upon a surprising circumstance: they discovered a way to increase the protein p53BP1. Next came the idea that increasing this protein intentionally could result into weaking cancer cells. A Eureka moment.

The lead scientist, Dr. Upiwei Zhang, assistant professor of pharmacology at Case Western, said, “ Our discovery one day could lead to a gene therapy where extra amounts of the 53BP1 protein will be generated to make cancer cells more vulnerable to cancer treatment. He explained that the idea is to have the proteins trick the cancer cells to go to a fork in the road and take the wrong turn—one that would lead to their destruction. In layman’s language professor Zhang says ultimately we would eventually want to build up the number of these 53BP1 proteins in patients to make their cancer cells vulnerable to radiation therapy and chemotherapy drugs.

 

 

SWITCHING OFF PROSTATE TUMOR GROWTH

November 15th, 2014

SWITCHING OFF PROSTATE TUMOR GROWTH

 

A new study from the Universities of Nottingham and Bristol in the UK may have found a new way to halt the spread of prostate tumors. The concept works like this: Prostate cancer cells multiply by building blood vessels that, like pipelines, deliver the nutrients that fuel cancer cells that spread. What if you can blow up the pipelines? In this case, halt the ability of the new blood cells to develop.

That’s what researchers have been working on. They’ve found a molecule they call SRPK1 that is needed to form the new blood vessels. The process of building these new blood vessels is known as Angiogenesis. Halting angiogenesis means blocking the SRPK1 molecule—which in turn means blocking the ability of the prostate tumor to grow—which in turn means no growth of the tumor!

Big news if researchers can replicate in humans what they found in mice!  Inhibiting SRPK1 means putting an end to the growth of the prostate tumor.

Chief investigator Professor David Bates (Division of Cancer and Stem Cells at the U of Nottingham) says: “Our results point to a novel way of treating prostate cancer and may have wider implications to be used in several types of cancers.”

Complete discussion can be found in the current journal Oncogene.

 

Prostate Cancer Recurrence

October 6th, 2014

OPINION

 

When the firehouse burns down that is not good news. When you’ve won the lottery but lost your ticket that is not good news. So when you’ve convinced yourself that you’ve licked prostate cancer and you’re mistaken, well, that is hardly good news. Full disclosure, that has happened to me! And I am the guy who’s been touting the progress made thus far in controlling prostate cancer.

But despite the fact that after more than a decade of being cancer-free and the sudden recurrence of the disease I am happy to report that I am quite alive and remain a survivor! In other words, I am living with prostate cancer, am fully functional and leading an active and full life. How can this be? you ask. And how do you carry on, knowing you are living in a kind of shadow of survivability?

When I first learned that my PSA had suddenly re-appeared three years ago and had gone from more than a decade at zero to seven I confess to be somewhat but not overly concerned. Several months later it advanced to 30 and remained there. But when it abruptly jumped to nearly 500 and kept advancing it was truly as Secretary John Kerry suggested in his foreword to our book “a real kick in the stomach.” No doubt about that.

During the rise in PSA, I remained asymptomatic. But as the PSA surpassed 500 I began to experience severe stomach cramps and intestinal problems. Consultation with my oncologist at Johns Hopkins led to a course of hormone injections, the first of which I have recently had. The intestinal issues continued for two weeks following the hormone injection but have significantly lessened. Whether the intestinal incidents have been a result of the cancer or the hormone therapy is still an open question. But I have been fortunate in that I have not experienced any other symptoms other than some but not serious fatigue.

I will say that the initial experience has done a job on my psyche. The first several weeks following the knowledge that the PSA had taken a giant leap plus the hormone treatment I felt suddenly vulnerable and tentative. I suppose that is the result of one’s coming face to face with the idea of our mortality. And then there is the good news: Once you face that ghostly eventuality, you can pull yourself together, as I did, and feel a resurgence of energy. And when you tell yourself you are still a survivor, I can tell you it is a mighty good and salubrious.  The Odyssey continues.

Norman Morris

 

Why you should linger on this site!

September 14th, 2014

I know you want your facts and info fast, short and sweet.  I know you hate to scroll.  But guess what?   You may be missing a lot of key info you want and need to know.  You probably won’t have to hunt all over the internet to find the answers you need.  It’s all here. Save yourself the time and effort and stay a while.

Your Chance to Help in Prostate Cancer Research! Please Join in!

July 18th, 2014

Let us introduce Lee Anne Walmsley.  She is a Registered Nurse working on her PhD dissertation at the University of Kentucky.  Her work is dedicated toward improving the psychological well-being of men with prostate cancer.  As she says, we know very little about the psychological well-being of men as they deal with the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer.  Her study is designed to provide new insight into what factors affect a patient’s well-being.  We urge you to join in her research by helping provide information about yourselves.

You can participate in the study if you 1) have been diagnosed with prostate cancer before, 2) are 18 years or older, 3) are married or have a partner, 4) are able to read and write in English, and 4) have not been diagnosed with any other type of cancer. The research study consists of a brief survey that is completed online. Please consider taking the survey and sharing the link with your friends!By participating in the research study, you will help us get a better understanding of how we can intervene to help men with prostate cancer improve their psychological well-being. https://redcap.uky.edu/redcap/surveys/?s=rRwr6bEDgv

To those who take part in this survey we send our heart felt thanks.  We also remind readers that our own book contains interviews with wives and loved ones, all of which should be of great interest.

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Hippocrates

~ Father of Medicine