Penile Cancer: Latest Research

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 02/2023

ON THIS PAGE: You will read about the scientific research being done to learn more about this type of cancer and how to treat it. Use the menu to see other pages.

Doctors are working to learn more about penile cancer, ways to prevent it, how to best treat it, and how to provide the best care to those diagnosed with this disease. The following areas of research may include new options for patients through clinical trials. Always talk with your doctor about the best diagnostic and treatment options for you.

  • Immunotherapy. Immunotherapy uses the body's natural defenses to fight cancer by improving your immune system’s ability to attack cancer cells. Learn more about the basics of immunotherapy.

  • Targeted therapy. Targeted therapy is a treatment that targets the cancer’s specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival. This type of treatment blocks the growth and spread of cancer cells and limits the damage to healthy cells.

    Not all tumors have the same targets. To find the most effective treatment, your doctor may run tests to identify the genes, proteins, and other factors in your tumor. As a result, doctors can better match each patient with the most effective treatment whenever possible. In addition, research studies continue to find out more about specific molecular targets and new treatments directed at them. Learn more about the basics of targeted treatments.

    For penile cancer, clinical trials are being done using drugs that block the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). EGFR is a protein that helps cancer cells grow and multiply. Researchers have found that drugs that block EGFR may be effective for stopping or slowing the growth of penile cancer.

  • Radiation therapy. Researchers are working to find the best way to use radiation therapy for penile cancer. This could include a combination of therapies, including radiation therapy and chemotherapy, in an effort to avoid surgery to remove the penis. Improved techniques use computed tomography (CT) scans to plan treatment, which may help find the dose that best treats the cancer while causing fewer side effects.

  • Radiosensitizers. In addition, researchers are looking at the use of radiosensitizers in the treatment of penile cancer. Radiosensitizers are drugs that make tumor cells more sensitive to radiation therapy, which makes radiation therapy more effective.

  • Combination therapy. Researchers are studying whether the combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy better reduces the risk of recurrence and/or increases survival than standard treatments.

  • Minimally invasive surgery. Minimally invasive surgery uses small incisions and a camera placed under the skin to perform a lymph node dissection to find out if the cancer has spread. Researchers are also studying endoscopic, or use of a thin, lighted flexible tube, and robotically assisted surgery to diagnose and remove penile cancer that may have spread to regional lymph nodes.

  • Palliative and supportive care. Clinical trials are underway to find better ways of reducing symptoms and side effects of current penile cancer treatments to improve comfort and quality of life for patients.

Looking for More About the Latest Research?

If you would like more information about the latest areas of research in penile cancer, explore this related item that takes you outside of this guide:

The next section in this guide is Coping with Treatment. It offers some guidance on how to cope with the physical, emotional, social, and financial changes that cancer and its treatment can bring. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.