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Many of our readers here in the United States and around the world know that President Obama has declared this month—September 2014—National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.
The President has reaffirmed that despite the fact that so much progress has been made in controlling the disease, it continues to devastate the lives of thousands of men in the U.S. and abroad every single year. In fact, in America, prostate cancer so far remains the most common cancer for men. It is true that the causes of prostate cancer are not known. But here is what we do know: Men with certain risk factors may be more likely to develop the disease. Most are over the age of sixty-five. Those whose fathers, brothers or close male relatives have had the disease are at higher risk. And African American men are especially prone to have the disease and are therefore considered at high risk. These high risk patients produce the highest mortality rates. Those diagnosed with prostate cancer are said to number roughly 200,000 a year. Deaths each year number about 30,000.
In issuing his proclamation President Obama said:
“My Administration will continue to stand with men and their families against prostate cancer. To ensure patients are covered when they need it most, the Affordable Care Act prevents insurers from placing lifetime or restrictive annual dollar limits on essential health benefits and from dropping coverage when people get sick., Beginning in 2014, the Act will also help Americans get the services they need by prohibiting insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre existing conditions. And to advance the state of care for men with prostate cancer, my Administration will continue to support promising research that brings us closer to tomorrow’s groundbreaking therapies, treatments and prevention techniques.”
We encourage our readers to join us in helping to spread the word that prostate cancer patients can be cared for properly and we hope all will join in activities that will increase awareness and prevention of prostate cancer.
Dr. Arthur L. Burnett MD and Norman S. Morris
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.
A newly released Harvard medical study finds that vasectomy raises the risk of lethal prostate cancer. The findings are the result of a 24-year longitudinal study of 50,000 men. The report, published in the July 7th issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, says the danger appears to be highest among men who have had a vasectomy before the age of 38!
Cancer experts call these findings “extremely important,” suggesting the implications in birth control are now quite significant and suddenly push the issue of birth control on women. As it is, women face many potential side effects in dealing with birth control.
Researchers point out that even though the most dangerous forms of prostate cancer are rare, over the 24-year study, 1.6% of the men developed a lethal form of the disease. They say a 20% increase would raise that figure to less than 2%.
As for why a vasectomy might raise the increased prostate cancer risks, Kathy Wilson, a co-author of the study, says the reasons remain unclear. One possibility, yet to be confirmed in additional research, is that the operation somehow changes the protein composition of seminal fluid made in the prostate.
Even among men who have had regular PSA screenings, those who had vasectomies were said to be 56% at higher risk to develop fatal prostate cancer. They say evidence shows the link is stronger in men who had vasectomy at younger age—earlier than 38 years old.
Malcolm Mason, a research scholar at Cancer Research UK says, “The extra risk of developing prostate cancer after having a vasectomy appears to be small, but of the few that do go on to develop the disease a higher number will develop an aggressive form.”
Among those who counsel caution is Dr. Louis Kavoussi, chairman of urology at North Shore-LIJ Health System in New Hyde, New York. He calls for more research in a “better controlled fashion” before physicians apply these findings to clinical practice. “It’s not like cigarette smoking causing a large number of people to develop lung cancer.
Support for the study comes from a grant to the Harvard School for Public Health by the U.S. National Cancer Institute among others.
In the ongoing race to find drugs that aid prostate cancer survival an important finding has just been reported. Namely, a cheap old drug used in chemotherapy—docetaxel sold under the name of Taxotere—when added to standard hormone therapy for men whose prostate cancer has widely spread can extend life by more than a year! The lead scientist in a nearly decade long study—Dr.Christopher Sweeney of Boston’s Dana-Farber Institute—hailed the discovery as one of the biggest improvements in survival for advanced cancer patients.
Men who received docetaxel lived nearly 58 months vs 44 months for those not given the drug. Dr. Sweeney shared the results at the American Society of Oncologist’s annual conference in Chicago earlier this month. It is the combination of a cheap decades old chemotherapy drug added to a newer drug that has researchers excited.
All 790 men in the study received drugs to block testosterone,which fuels prostate cancer’s growth, and half also were given six infusions of docetaxel, one every three weeks. About 2 ½ years later, 101 of the men given docetaxel had died compared to 136 of the men who did not get it. Dr. Sweeney said most men who received docetaxel were able to tolerate treatment well.
The National Cancer Institute funded the decade long study. Results show the importance of federal funding for research, scientists say, that otherwise might not get done. Dr. Clifford Hudis, a physician at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York says the pharmaceutical industry is less interested in funding a new use for an old drug because it has lost patent protection long ago.
Genenric docetaxel costs about $1500 per infusion. Compare that with other (newer) drugs that can cost as much as $100,000 or more for a course of treatment.
An important finding to report for men who have undergone surgery or radiation therapy but who experience a rise in PSA and a return of prostate cancer! One very significant report to be presented at the May 30, 2014 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago suggests that hormone therapy can be withheld or delayed. This should be of immediate interest to oncologists and some 60,000 American men a year who find themselves in this situation.
In a telephone news conference (NYTimes May 15, 2014) the president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Dr. Clifford A. Hudis, in advance of the society’s meeting, said the study “certainly does not provide evidence that you have to rush in with treatment, and it does provide comfort if you choose for any reason to withhold treatment at the beginning, that you’re probably not risking much.” Hormone treatment to stem tumor growth can cause side effects including hot flashes, loss of libido and weakening of muscles and bones.
Read the full report at this link:
The drug Enzalutamide marketed as Xtandi has had great success in the treatment of metastatic castration resistant in advanced prostate cancer. Xtandi is an androgen receptor antagonist drug developed by the pharmaceutical company Medivation. ( The drug is also administered in some instances to inhibit breast cancer cell growth. )
However, at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (April, 2014) in San Diego, California a cautionary note was sounded by Dr. Emmanuel Antonarakis of Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center in Baltimore, Maryland.
In a recent study Dr. Antonarakis and colleagues identified a genetic biomarker called AR-V7 that can be found in circulating tumor cells and that predicts resistance to Enzalutamide in men with advanced prostate cancer!
The marker AR-V7 was found in nearly 40 percent of patients tested. Meaning, it is fairly common Dr. Antonarakis says. “Patients considering treatment with Enzaltamide could have a blood test taken in advance to determine if their (particular) cancer contains AR-V7. If (the answer is) yes, then these patients should seek alternative therapies because Enzalutamide will not be effective.” In these instances, Dr. Antonarakis suggests therapies such as chemotherapy should be considered.
For most of us to visualize the “nano world” some biologists are peeking into can be shall we say transformative. Among these scientists are Richard Hynes and Alexandra Naba of MIT’s Koch Institute. They and their group have identified what are called extracellular proteins that help aggressive tumors spread throughout the body.
Here’s what we’re talking about. Nearly all cancer deaths result from tumors that spread from their original locations and travel elsewhere in the body. In other words, these cancer cells break loose and escape. This process is known as metastasis and the way they escape is what amounts to a scaffold or ladder of tissue. The villains are these nasty proteins and the researchers have identified dozens of these proteins that surround aggressive tumors. Oddly, not less aggressive tumors. The findings suggest that new tests will be developed to predict which of the tumors will be most likely to metastasize—thereby, helping to come up with new therapeutic procedures.
So here’s the problem says Dr. Hynes. All the current drugs are targeted to primary tumors. But once a metastasis appears—in many cases—there’s nothing to do about it. “ In principle, he says, “ one could imagine interfering with some of thse extracellular proteins and blocking metastasis in a patient. We’re a long way from that, but it’s not inconceivable.”
The extracellular matrix is made up of collagens that provide structural support for living tissues. But the matrix also included hundreds of other proteins that guide cells’ behavior and help them communicate with each other.
You can read all about the researchers findings in the March 11, 2014 online edition of eLife.
Much of the current research will center on whether extracellular matrix proteins in tissues to which escaped tumors often metastasize—these include bone, liver and lungs. That would make them more receptive, the authors say, to invading cancer cells. And if such proteins could be identivied, they could also be good drug targets.
Researchers in Britain have hit upon a dramatic new imaging technique that lights up cancer’s sleeping or dormant cells. When cancer cells stop growing they can go into a dormant stage and store energy for future use. That means they can become resistant to killer drugs and escape detection. Up to now, invasive techniques are used to find them and most have been able to evade detection. Now a radioactive molecule has been discovered that can pinpoint these sleeper cells that may eventually wake up and create havoc in the body.
The lead scientist at Imperial College London, Professor Eric Aboagye,says this new technique called PET SCAN (positron emission tomography) has the immediate potential in the clinic to assess how well drugs are working for patients and to warn of potential relapses of treatment. And it is non-invasive!
The research so far has been used on mice and Professor Aboagye says the technique shows real promise as a tool for telling doctors how much of the cancer can possibly be escaping treatment. He says the technique can be translated to work in humans and can be adapted for the clinic to help save more lives. This is a remarkable new development that the researchers are convinced can be used in the future to treat an entire array of cancers beyond prostate.
The American Cancer Society reports that for the first time ever there has been a 20 percent decline in the number of deaths of African Americans from prostate cancer. African Americans have for decades been the number one target for the disease and still are. They are, in fact, 60 percent more likely to get the disease than any other racial group. But early detection has certainly helped turn the corner on the number of deaths. More and more African American men are obviously heeding the caution–getting tested instead of waiting until they discover they have advanced cases that are difficult or impossible to cure. In short, the word is out in the African American community and more and more black men are paying attention. The word is simple enough: you don’t have to die from prostate cancer; you should be screened when you reach 40 years of age. Men who have male family members diagnosed with the disease are especially at risk. Early detection can be a life-saver!