Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Not all prostate cancer is the same…promising research

U of A researchers closing in on more accurate prostate cancer test

John Lewis, left, is leading the development of a more accurate test for prostate cancer. Srijan Raha is a researcher, funded by a donation by the Building Trades of Alberta.

Photograph by: Bill Mah , Edmonton Journal

EDMONTON - Not all prostate cancer is the same.

There’s slow-growth prostate cancer, then there’s a deadlier form that spreads to other parts of the body and requires aggressive treatment.
Edmonton researchers are developing a test that for the first time can differentiate between the two types.
“It allows us to customize and treat the patients far more effectively,” Rocco Rossi, CEO of Prostate Cancer Canada, said Tuesday.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer affecting Canadian men. One in eight will be diagnosed with it in their lifetimes, with 23,600 new cases and 4,000 deaths expected this year in Canada. Doctors currently use a prostate-specific antigen, commonly referred to as a PSA blood test to detect prostate cancer, but Rossi said it’s a limited technique because it doesn’t show the aggressiveness of the disease.
Rossi said the test being developed shows promise of giving men and their doctors “real clarity as to who should be put through surgery, radiation and hormone replacement therapy because, quite frankly, if we don’t need to, let’s not.”
Cancer that spreads beyond the prostate gland to the lymph nodes, bones, or other areas is called metastatic prostate cancer.
“No man dies from prostate cancer that stays in his prostate,” said John Lewis, a University of Alberta researcher.
“It’s really the prostate cancer that escapes and spreads that’s deadly.”
Lewis and his team found a way to watch and videotape cancer cells as they begin to move, which pointed the way to develop a more accurate blood test for deadly prostate cancer.
“Basically, we discovered some proteins that really switch and they start to move.” Pilot studies show it’s that movement that predicts whether patients develop the metastatic disease.
“These are the patients we need to be concentrating on with our most aggressive treatments and, just as importantly, those patients that don’t have this switch are much less likely to develop this metastatic, aggressive disease and can be monitored … and have much less invasive treatment and less side-effects.”
The researchers developed technology to look at tiny fragments of cancer cells floating in blood and urine. Over the course of the three-year project, 9,000 patient samples from around the world will be checked to validate the effectiveness of the new test. If proven effective, it can be incorporated into clinical practice, Lewis said.
The research is getting a boost with a $80,000 donation from the Building Trades of Alberta and Prostate Cancer Canada that will fund “apprentice” researcher Srijan Raha in Edmonton and another trainee researcher in Calgary.
“Through my undergraduate degree, I was taking a variety of courses but I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to study, … but I met Dr. Lewis and I was really inspired to study further in cancer sciences,” Raha said.
The research also received grant of about $1.5-million from Prostate Cancer Canada and a $7-million grant from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.
Warren Fraleigh, executive director of the Building Trades of Alberta, said the donation fits the demographics of its members.
“This is something that’s going to benefit not just all the members in the Building Trades but Albertans in general,” he said.

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