Prostate Cancer: Latest Research

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 03/2018

ON THIS PAGE: You will read about the scientific research being done now 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 prostate cancer, ways to prevent it, how to best treat it, and how to provide the best care to people 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.

  • Finding causes of prostate cancer. Researchers continue to explore the link between nutrition and lifestyle factors and the development of prostate cancer.

  • Early detection. Researchers are trying to develop a better PSA test, either a more specific and precise test or a different test. With improved testing, more healthy men could be screened for prostate cancer, so more prostate cancers could be found and treated early.

  • Genomic tests. Genomics is the study of how genes behave. Genomic tests look at the genes in prostate cancer to help predict how quickly the cancer may grow and spread. The information from these tests can help the cancer care team make decisions about the treatment plan, such as whether active surveillance is an option for men with low-risk prostate cancer or by helping the health care team make a prognosis after surgery and choose the best adjuvant treatments. Some of the genomic tests available now include Decipher, Oncotype DX, ProstaVysion, and the Prolaris Test.

    NCCN recently updated their guidelines to include details about genomic testing in men with prostate cancer. They recommend that men with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer receive testing for inherited and tumor mutations, which could help direct treatment. 

  • Advanced imaging scans. Research is ongoing to use different molecules in PET-CT scans (see Diagnosis) to gather important information about a prostate cancer diagnosis, such whether there is distant spread (metastasis). One of those molecules, prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA), may be very effective at finding BCR and allowing early treatment.

  • Improved surgical techniques. Better techniques for nerve-sparing surgery can decrease the risk of urinary and sexual side effects for men who need a radical prostatectomy.

  • Shorter radiation therapy schedules. With better, more precise external-beam radiation therapy, researchers are exploring much shorter and more convenient treatment schedules. Instead of 40 treatments, researchers are evaluating using 28, 12, or only 5 treatments.

  • Tests to evaluate the success of treatment. Research continues to evaluate biomarkers that are found in the blood. These biomarkers can help determine the effectiveness of a treatment and be used to better assess the cancer’s response to treatment. Blood tests measuring circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are 1 such test. CTCs are cells that have broken free from the tumor.

  • Improved therapy for advanced prostate cancer. Researchers are exploring different treatment options for advanced prostate cancer in clinical trials, including special targeted drugs, chemotherapy, ADT, and immunotherapy. Researchers are evaluating another class of drugs, called PARP inhibitors, for prostate cancer. These drugs act on DNA-repair genes in cancer cells, making it difficult for them to replicate. In the TOPAR study, men with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer were treated with olaparib (Lynparza). Olaparib worked well in men who had defects in DNA-repair genes. Multiple studies are currently evaluating this class of agents.

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

Looking for More About the Latest Research?

If you would like additional information about the latest areas of research regarding prostate cancer, explore these related items that take you outside of this guide:

  • To find clinical trials specific to your diagnosis, talk with your doctor or search online clinical trial databases now.

  • Visit the Cancer.Net Blog to read reviews of recent research in prostate cancer and to listen to podcasts with expert perspectives on the topic.

  • Visit the website of ASCO’s Conquer Cancer Foundation to find out how to help support cancer research. Please note that this link takes you to a separate ASCO website. 

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