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Two Developments in the Fight Against Prostate Cancer

by Paul-Martin Foss

Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers affecting men. By age 80, 80% of men will carry prostate cancer cells in their prostates, and over 28,000 men die from prostate cancer each year. Two new developments in the fight against prostate cancer may help those who are at risk of suffering the disease.

Screening for prostate cancer has traditionally taken the form of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening. Current guidelines advise against PSA screening due to lack of evidence that PSA screening lowers the risk of death from prostate cancer. But a new review suggests that those guidelines should be reexamined.

Researchers examined the results of two studies performed in both the United States and Europe on prostate cancer screening. While the results of one study showed that PSA screening leads to a reduced mortality risk from prostate cancer, the other study showed that there was no reduction in prostate cancer deaths as a result of PSA screening. Further analysis of those results, subjecting them to mathematical regressions, found that both studies actually indicated that PSA screening significantly reduced the risk of death from prostate cancer.

A new study has also shown that a combination of a breast cancer drug and hormone therapy could be effective at slowing the growth of prostate cancer and stopping cancer from recurring. Hormone therapy is a common remedy for prostate cancer, reducing levels of androgens, including testosterone, that help prostate cancer cells grow.

While that therapy can be effective in killing prostate cancer cells, it also activates enzymes known as PARP enzymes within the cells that help them to evade the hormone therapy, leading to recurrences of the cancer. Drugs that inhibit PARP enzymes are already in use to treat breast cancer, so researchers sought to assess whether they were effective in treating prostate cancer too. They found that the combination of hormone therapy with PARP inhibitors was effective in killing prostate cancer cells, but that it was most effective in treatment of early stages of prostate cancer.

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