This section contains the latest highlighted research for patients from ASCO medical journals, including the Journal of Clinical Oncology, as well as an archive of research highlights from previous ASCO scientific meetings (2011-2015). For the latest research highlights from more recent ASCO meetings, visit the Cancer.Net Blog or check out Cancer.Net’s audio podcasts and videos for patients.
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Updated results from a clinical trial conducted in Norway and Sweden show that adding radiation therapy to ongoing oral anti-androgen therapy, a type of hormone therapy, more than halved the rate of deaths from locally advanced prostate cancer, compared to ongoing oral anti-androgen therapy given without radiation therapy. For men with prostate cancer, hormone therapy is used to block or lower the levels of hormones called androgens that can be involved in prostate cancer growth. Locally advanced prostate cancer is when the disease has grown through the capsule, the tissue that covers most of the prostate. When this study first began, surgery was not a standard treatment for this type of prostate cancer, and surgery is still not often used because it can be difficult to remove all of the cancer. Radiation therapy (the use of x-rays to kill cancer cells) is often a good option because it can be directed at tissue beyond the prostate to kill cells outside the capsule.
In a large, 20-year study, researchers found that men with a high level of fitness at middle age have a lower risk of developing and dying from lung and colorectal cancers. They also found that better fitness lowers the risk of dying of prostate cancer.
In a new study, researchers found that patients with high-risk prostate cancer who received hormone therapy for 18 months lived as long as patients who received hormone therapy for 36 months. Androgens (male sex hormones), such as testosterone, help prostate cancer grow. Hormone therapy, also called androgen blockade therapy or androgen deprivation therapy, slows the growth of prostate cancer by lowering the levels of androgens or blocking the androgens from getting to the prostate cancer cell. It is a standard treatment for prostate cancer. However, long-term hormone therapy causes many side effects, such as hot flashes, loss of libido (sex drive), erectile dysfunction, weight gain, loss of bone density and muscle mass, and depression that worsen during the length of treatment. With this study, researchers hoped that a shorter course of hormone therapy would help treat the cancer equally well while reducing the side effects.
A recent analysis showed that early-stage, but aggressive (grows and spreads quickly) prostate cancer is more likely to be detected in black men and men older than 75. Generally, the percentage of men with this type of prostate cancer is very small (about 1 man out of 8,000 men develops this type of prostate cancer). Because this stage of prostate cancer causes no symptoms and cannot be felt during a physical exam or seen on imaging tests, it is only detected through prostate specific antigen (PSA) testing. PSA is a substance in the blood that is primarily made by the prostate gland. It can be found in higher-than-normal levels in men with various prostate conditions, including prostate cancer, benign (noncancerous) prostatic hyperplasia (BPH, an enlarged prostate), and inflammation or infection of the prostate.
A long-term study comparing two common hormone therapy schedules showed that intermittent (short breaks in treatment) hormone therapy is less effective than continuous (no breaks in treatment) hormone therapy for men with hormone-sensitive prostate cancer with minimal disease spread (cancer that has not spread beyond the spine, pelvis, and lymph nodes). Hormone-sensitive prostate cancer is cancer that uses male sex hormones called androgens, such as testosterone, to grow and spread. Hormone therapy, also called androgen ablation or androgen-deprivation therapy, lowers levels of androgens in the body to help keep the cancer from growing or spreading. Eventually, metastatic prostate cancer (cancer that has spread) develops a resistance to hormone therapy, meaning the treatment stops working to control the cancer's growth.
About one-third of men with localized, high-risk prostate cancer who received the drug abiraterone (Zytiga) along with hormone therapy before surgery had little to no cancer remaining after six months of treatment, according to a recent clinical trial. Prostate cancer is called localized high-risk prostate cancer when the tumor has grown throughout the prostate, is high grade (meaning the cancer cells barely look like normal cells, called a Gleason score of 8), and the man has a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level higher than 20.
A new study showed that men with early-stage prostate cancer who exercise vigorously at least three hours a week have genes that are expressed differently in the prostate than those who do not exercise as intensely. Genes are small individual collections of information within each cell of the human body. How these genes affect the body is called gene expression.
The researchers found that a little more than 7% of men who received external-beam radiation therapy experienced side effects, such as narrowing of the urethra and bleeding in the bladder, compared with a little less than 7% of men who received a prostatectomy and about 3% of men who had brachytherapy. In addition, men who had external-beam radiation therapy were much more likely to experience gastrointestinal side effects, such as bleeding from the rectum. The researchers also found that external-beam radiation therapy was more than twice as expensive as brachytherapy or prostatectomy.
A new, large study shows that intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) is better than conventional conformal radiation therapy (CRT) at reducing side effects and prostate cancer recurrences (cancer that comes back after treatment) and it is less expensive than CRT and proton therapy. Both IMRT and CRT are types of radiation therapy that are designed to aim beams of radiation directly at a tumor. IMRT is better than CRT at varying the strength of the radiation so the tumor gets more radiation and the healthy tissue gets less. Proton therapy is a type of radiation therapy that uses protons instead of x-rays to treat cancer.
A new clinical trial showed that the drug called radium-223 chloride (Ra-223), designed to treat bone metastases (cancer that has spread to the bone), helps men with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer live longer and slows the development of bone problems from the cancer. Castration-resistant prostate cancer is when the cancer continues to grow and spread without needing the male sex hormone testosterone.