Prostate cancer - On the horizon

Promising areas of research and development work in prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body.:

You can also use this section to find out how to search for prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. clinical trials that are currently in progress.

New treatments are being tested all the time, so make sure you visit sixpartswater regularly to read about the latest research.

Improving screening techniques for diagnosis of prostate cancer

Finding a screening technique that can distinguish between non-aggressive and aggressive forms of prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. is one of the most urgent issues in screening research.

There is global interest in this matter and researchers are getting closer to a more reliable screening method that may prevent unnecessary treatment and ensure the right treatment is given to the men who need it.

Identifying new Biomarkers - RNA analysis

Researchers from VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, have discovered a new biomarker that may lead to an answer to the screening dilemma. This builds on the work already in progress on the PCA3 screening technique.

What is it?

Tumour-markers are substances the body produces either as a result of cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. growth or when a tumour develops. Scientists interpret these markers to identify from the information given by the cells whether a patient has dormant or aggressive prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body..
One tumour-marker is contained in molecules called RNA. Fatty capsules called exosomes carry RNA from a tumour and excrete it from the body in urine. Scientists study the exosomes to discover whether or not the cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. is aggressive or non-aggressive.

How does it work?

The test would be carried out by massaging the prostate, then collecting a sample of urine that is analysed for RNA content.

Who is it for?

This screening test could be used for any man who is at risk of prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. or for men showing early symptoms of the disease.

What stage of development has it reached?

The test is still in early development and is not yet available. But the development has so far yielded promising results. It may be available in the near future.

Research on genes linked to prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. is helping scientists understand how the disease develops.

Blood testing for early detection - The EPCA2 test

Researchers are working on developing a new bloodA fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. test that will identify prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. cells. The test is called the EPCA2 test. The researchers hope that this test will be more informative and helpful in diagnosing prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. than the PSA test.

What is it?

This is a new bloodA fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. test for prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body., which is currently undergoing clinical trials in the USA.

How does it work?

It works by measuring levels of early prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. antigenA substance that prompts the immune system to fight infection with antibodies.-2 (EPCA-2). Developed by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, the test distinguishes between cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. confined to the prostate and cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. that has spread outside it.

Who is it for?

The EPCA-2 test is a diagnostic test for men who are displaying early symptoms of prostate disease.

What stage of development has it reached?

The researchers hope that the new test will be available in the USA by the end of 2009 or in 2010.

Developing genetic screening techniques

Research shows that there are certain genes that may predispose a man to developing prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body.. Researchers are trying to develop new screening techniques to identify men with high-risk geneticRelating to the genes, the basic units of genetic material. patterns, in the hope that this could lead to earlier detection and treatment.

BRCA1/2 testing

What is it?

Alterations or mutations in two genes called Breast Cancer 1 (BRCA1) and Breast Cancer 2 (BRCA2) that are known to increase a woman's chance of developing breast cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. have also been shown to increase a man's risk of developing prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body..
Researchers hope to determine whether early and targeted screening of men who have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes will enable earlier diagnosisThe process of determining which condition a patient may have. of prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body., and whether this could lead to more successful treatment.

How does it work?

A targeted screening method is being developed using bloodA fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. tests and biopsies to identify the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes in men.

Who is it for?

The tests aim to identify men who are at high risk of prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. because they carry the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes that may predispose them to develop the disease.

What stage of development has it reached?

A large international study involving more than 20 countries is testing this screening technique. Called the IMPACT study, it began in 2005 and is expected to run for at least ten years.

Other geneticRelating to the genes, the basic units of genetic material. testing techniques in development

Genetic testing may eventually help to identify more men who are at high risk of developing prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body.. These men may benefit from vigilant screening and more active treatment.
The geneThe basic unit of genetic material carried on chromosomes. EZH2 has been found in some men with advanced prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body.. This may mean that men who have this geneThe basic unit of genetic material carried on chromosomes. develop a more aggressive form of prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. than those who don't have the geneThe basic unit of genetic material carried on chromosomes..

Researchers hope that identifying men with the geneThe basic unit of genetic material carried on chromosomes. will help determine those who would benefit from radical treatment rather than watchful waiting for prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body..

Understanding the causes

Risk factors

It is still not fully understood why one man develops prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. and another does not, and exactly what influences this. Researchers are investigating many risk factors that may lead to prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body..

What is it?

Possible risk factors under scrutiny include genetics, environmental influences and lifestyle factors such as diet and occupational exposure. Researchers are studying whether or not such factors contribute to the risk of prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. and, if they are linked, how they may do this.

Who is it for?

If enough evidence is found, it may enable men to avoid influences that could increase their risk of developing prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body..

It is also possible that some factors could promote the growth or spread of cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. and that taking appropriate measures could increase the life expectancy of men who have already been diagnosed with prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body..

What stage of development has it reached?

There is currently a good deal of research devoted to identifying risk factors for prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body., including nutritional and lifestyle influences. A large study, called the BiPAS study, began in the UK in 2007. It is looking at environmental and geneticRelating to the genes, the basic units of genetic material. influences on prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. and is expected to continue until 2010.

Gene therapy

Research on genes linked to prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. is helping scientists understand how prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. develops. These studies are expected to provide answers about geneticRelating to the genes, the basic units of genetic material. changes that lead to prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body..

What is it?

Gene therapy researchers are studying the genes in prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. cells that are abnormal and cause the cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. cells to continue reproducing rather than die.

How does it work?

It is hoped that, as research continues, it will become possible to replace the abnormal genes with healthy ones as a treatment for prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body..

Who is it for?

Gene therapy will be targeted at men who have received a diagnosisThe process of determining which condition a patient may have. of prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body.. The research is still in its very early stages and it is still not clear which type of prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. it may be most beneficial to treat.

What stage of development has it reached?

Gene therapy is an exciting area of research. There have been two trials in the UK to test the effectiveness of geneThe basic unit of genetic material carried on chromosomes. replacement therapy, the most recent of which closed in 2005. The results of these trials are awaited before further treatment can be developed.

Precision-targeted radiotherapy

Research is attempting to improve the effectiveness of radiotherapy treatment and to reduce side effects such as radiation damage to healthy tissue. For example, it may be possible to develop techniques for more precise targeting of radiotherapy treatment. There are several exciting new developments in this area.

What is it?

Radiotherapy is an existing treatment for prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. that uses high-energy radiation to kill cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. cells.

How does it work?

Radiotherapy is already a successful treatment for prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body.. But researchers believe that a more precise delivery of radiation would increase the effectiveness of the treatment of the cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. and could save healthy tissue from harm. Developments include studies to assess whether using radiotherapy inside the body (brachytherapyA type of radiotherapy where radioactive pellets or wires are inserted into the tumour.) combined with external radiotherapy would be more effective at controlling prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body..

Who is it for?

The treatment is for men with localised and locally advanced prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body..

What stage of development has it reached?

Some methods being investigated, including an extremely precise method of delivery called the 'Cyberknife', are still in the early stages of development. The RADICALS trial is assessing whether radiotherapy could be beneficial as a standard treatment after a radical prostatectomyThe surgical removal of the entire prostate gland. rather than, as now, being used only for men whose PSA levels increase after surgery. The CHHiP trial is looking at the effectiveness of giving radiotherapy in more frequent and intense doses, called intensity modulated radiotherapy. The CHHiP trial is planned to finish in 2013.

A new type of vaccine is being developed to help people with cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. fight the disease from within - by encouraging their immune systemThe organs specialised to fight infection. to recognise and fight cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. cells.

Developments in chemotherapy

There have already been encouraging results from using chemotherapyThe use of chemical substances to treat disease, particularly cancer. in prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body.. Now research is under way to test the results of using certain chemotherapyThe use of chemical substances to treat disease, particularly cancer. treatments in combination with other drugs.

What is it?

Chemotherapeutic treatments being developed include using the main chemotherapyThe use of chemical substances to treat disease, particularly cancer. drug for prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body., docetaxel, in combination with other drugs to increase its effectiveness.

How does it work?

It is hoped that combining docetaxel with other drugs and with vitamin D may help relieve pain and increase life expectancy.

Who is it for?

The treament is for men with metastatic prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. whose cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. is no longer responding to hormoneA substance produced by a gland in one part of the body and carried by the blood to the organs or tissues where it has an effect. treatment (hormone-refractoryUnresponsive to hormone therapy. prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body.).

What stage of development has it reached?

There has been some promising research regarding the way docetaxel works with other drugs for the treatment of prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body.. A trial that may confirm this finding, called the TRAPEZE trial, ends in 2011.

TEMT (Thermal Enhanced Metastatic Therapy)

What is it?

TEMT (Thermal Enhanced Metastatic Therapy) is a therapy being researched to increase the effectiveness of different treatments used to treat metastatic prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body..

Who is it for?

The therapy is designed for men with metastatic prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. who are about to or are already undergoing radiotherapy or chemotherapyThe use of chemical substances to treat disease, particularly cancer. treatment.

How does it work?

Nanoparticles that are attracted to specific proteins on cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. cells are injected into the patient. The nanoparticles collect in tumors and the collected particles can then be heated, through the use of an external energy source, including a magnetic field. This source of heat directed into the tumour in this way weakens the tumor making it more sensitive and responsive to treatments including chemotherapyThe use of chemical substances to treat disease, particularly cancer. and radiotherapy.

What stage in development has it reached?

The programme is being trialed in the US at John Hopkins University and is now in it's 2nd year. Researchers are working hard to ensure the most accurate delivery of the heat source so that healthy tissue does not get damaged.

Photodynamic therapy (PDT)

This treatment uses light to kill cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. cells. Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is now being tested for its effectiveness in treating prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body..

What is it?

PDT is a form of cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. treatment that has been used successfully to treat skin cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. and head and neck cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body..

How does it work?

Patients are given a drug called a photosensitiser that reacts with specific wavelengths of light. The drug is retained for longer within cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. cells than normal ones. Some time later a very strong light is directed at the cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. area. The drug reacts to the light by producing chemicals that kill the cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. cells without damaging nearby tissue.

Who is it for?

PDT is currently being tested in men who have localised prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. - either those who have not received any prior treatment or those who have previously been treated with external beam radiation therapy (EBRT).

What stage of development has it reached?

A trial that has been carried out at University College Hospital in London has been assessing the effectiveness of PDT treatment for localised prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body.. Results from the trial are currently being awaited. A phase 3 trial will be assessing PDT in treatment centres throughout Europe later this year. Another study to test PDT in men with localised prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. who have previously been treated with EBRT is under way in Canada. The results from both studies are awaited.

Bisphosphonates

Bisphosphonates are drugs used to treat the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis and cases when cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. has spread into the bones. Research is under way to develop their use in prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. treatment.

What is it?

Bisphosphonates are effective in slowing the breakdown of bones.
When secondary cancers spread into bones, this causes the bones to break down, leaving them weakened and susceptible to fractures; it also causes pain, and calciumAn element that forms the structure of bones and teeth and is essential to many of the body's functions. from bone breakdown becomes concentrated in the bloodA fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid..

In advanced prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body., the bones are the most common place for the cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. to spread, often causing a great deal of pain.

How does it work?

In the UK, the bisphosphonate zoledronic acid is an approved treatment for easing pain in cases of bone breakdown in advanced prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body.. It has yet to be approved for its bone-strengthening properties.

Laboratory tests on cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. cells have also found zoledronic acid to have anti-tumour effects, especially in combination with a chemotherapyThe use of chemical substances to treat disease, particularly cancer. drug called docetaxel. But the tests used doses of zoledronic acid so high that equivalent doses would be toxic if taken by humans. Further studies are now under way to test lower, safer dosages to find out whether these would still have anti-cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. properties.

Who is it for?

The treatment is for men with advanced prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body..

What stage of development has it reached?

In tests on mice, scientists in Seattle, Washington, USA, administered three drugs - zoledronic acid, docetaxel and a new drug everolimus - firstly alone and then in combination. The results, published in the journal Prostate in June 2008, found that everolimus did inhibit the growth of cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. cells in bones but it was more effective when used in conjunction with both zoledronic acid and docetaxel

Many similar drugs are undergoing clinical trials in combination with existing drugs to test the theory that a combination of medicines taken together could be more effective than one drug alone. For more information see the TRAPEZE and STAMPEDE clinical trials.

Using COX-2 inhibitors

COX-2 inhibitors belong to a group of drugs called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugsA group of drugs that give pain relief and reduce inflammation. (NSAID). They stop an enzymeA protein that speeds up chemical reactions in the body without being used up itself. called cyclo-oxygenase 2 (COX-2) from functioning properly.

The COX-2 enzymeA protein that speeds up chemical reactions in the body without being used up itself. is important in the growth of cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. because it stimulates growth factorA chemical that stimulates new cell growth and maintenance in the body. that helps cancers to grow new bloodA fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. vessels. Researchers are looking at the role of COX-2 inhibitors in the treatment of prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body..

Celecoxib

What is it?

Celecoxib is an NSAID that is frequently used for treating arthritisInflammation of one or more joints of the body..

How does it work?

When used together with a cholesterolA substance present in many tissues and an important constituent of cell membranes although high concentrations of a certain type of cholesterol in the blood are unhealthy.-lowering drug called atorvastatin, celecoxib appears to delay the growth of prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. in its early, less aggressive stages, making it easier to treat.

Who is it for?

The treatment is for men with prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. in its early, less aggressive stages who have not yet had surgery.

What stage of development has it reached?

The drug combination is currently being studied in a major clinical trial called the STAMPEDE trial.

Pomegranate juice

Pomegranates contain a powerful mixture of anti-oxidant chemicals. Researchers believe that the properties of the fruit may be able to help the body's own natural defence system slow down the recurrence and progression of prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body..

Hormone therapy to block growth receptors

What is it?

Abiraterone is a hormoneA substance produced by a gland in one part of the body and carried by the blood to the organs or tissues where it has an effect.-blocking drug that has been shown to reduce PSA levels and shrink tumours in advanced prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. patients with hormone-refractoryUnresponsive to hormone therapy. prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. (HR prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body.). The drug has also produced encouraging results for patients who have already undergone unsuccessful chemotherapyThe use of chemical substances to treat disease, particularly cancer..

How does it work?

Abiraterone blocks the production of male sex hormones throughout the body. These are produced largely in the testes but they are also made in the adrenal glands and elsewhere, and encourage prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. cells to grow.

Who is it for?

The treatment is for men with hormone-refractoryUnresponsive to hormone therapy. prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. that has not responded to existing hormonal therapies.

What stage of development has it reached?

Based on initial promising results, both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the USA and the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) have now agreed on a framework for the next stage of trials.

Using statins to help prevent prostate cancer

New research from the USA shows that the use of statinsA class of drugs that inhibit cholesterol formation in the liver. has been linked to a reduced risk of developing prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body..

What is it?

Statins are a group of commonly prescribed drugs used to lower cholesterolA substance present in many tissues and an important constituent of cell membranes although high concentrations of a certain type of cholesterol in the blood are unhealthy.. They are not currently prescribed for the treatment of prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body..

How does it work?

Statins work by blocking a substance the body needs to make cholesterolA substance present in many tissues and an important constituent of cell membranes although high concentrations of a certain type of cholesterol in the blood are unhealthy.. They may also help the body reabsorb cholesterolA substance present in many tissues and an important constituent of cell membranes although high concentrations of a certain type of cholesterol in the blood are unhealthy. that has accumulated in plaques on arteryA blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart. Apart from the pulmonary artery and umbilical artery, all arteries carry oxygenated blood. walls, helping to prevent further blockage in the bloodA fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. vessels.

Recent evidence shows that the use of statinsA class of drugs that inhibit cholesterol formation in the liver. may be associated with a reduced risk of developing prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body.. This research highlights the fact that cholesterolA substance present in many tissues and an important constituent of cell membranes although high concentrations of a certain type of cholesterol in the blood are unhealthy. may play a role in prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. development by studying the link between low-density lipoproteinOne of a group of compounds that consist of a protein combined with a lipid, and help to transport lipids in the blood and lymphatic system. (LDL) cholesterolA substance present in many tissues and an important constituent of cell membranes although high concentrations of a certain type of cholesterol in the blood are unhealthy. and PSA levels.

Who is it for?

Statins are not currently prescribed for the treatment of prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body.. But if research proves their effectiveness, they may be used for men at risk of developing prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. who have high cholesterolA substance present in many tissues and an important constituent of cell membranes although high concentrations of a certain type of cholesterol in the blood are unhealthy. levels.

Men who are taking prescribed statinsA class of drugs that inhibit cholesterol formation in the liver. for the reduction of cholesterolA substance present in many tissues and an important constituent of cell membranes although high concentrations of a certain type of cholesterol in the blood are unhealthy. may also benefit from some protection against prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body., but until further research has been completed the use of statinsA class of drugs that inhibit cholesterol formation in the liver. cannot be considered a treatment against prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. in itself.

What stage in development has it reached?

As yet, there have been no clinical trials to assess the effectiveness of statinOne of a class of drugs that inhibit cholesterol formation in the liver. use in prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. prevention. However, since initial research looks promising this may soon be underway and the target group for this treatment will be identified.

Therapeutic vaccines to improve life expectancy for metastatic patients

Researchers are developing new ways to help the body fight prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body.. The use of a new type of vaccine is showing promising results.

What is it?

A new type of vaccine is being developed to help people with cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. fight the disease from within - by encouraging their immune systemThe organs specialised to fight infection. to recognise and fight cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. cells.

How does it work?

This type of vaccine works differently from preventative vaccines. Preventative vaccines introduce a small amount of a virusA microbe that is only able to multiply within living cells. into the body so that the body then knows how to attack it, but therapeutic cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. vaccines work by activating the immune systemThe organs specialised to fight infection. to identify and fight some proteins specific to cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body.. This process enables the patient's immune systemThe organs specialised to fight infection. to produce anti-antigens and attack cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. cells to improve quality of life and extend survival.

Researchers hope that such a vaccine will improve the life expectancy of men with advanced prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body..

Who is it for?

The vaccine is for men with metastatic prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. that is no longer responding to hormoneA substance produced by a gland in one part of the body and carried by the blood to the organs or tissues where it has an effect. therapy.

What stage in development has it reached?

The trial of the drug Provenge, which is being run in the USA, is now at Phase 3 with plans to be completed by November 2010. The trial is no longer recruiting participants.

Stabilising PSA Levels using pomegranate juice

Many men find that after treatment for prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. they begin to see a rise in their PSA level again, but researchers have found promising evidence to show that pomegranate juice may help to stabilise PSA levels.

What is it?

Research carried out over a six-year period has shown that pomegranate juice may slow the progression of prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. recurrence in men who have already undergone treatment, according to new long-term research results presented at the 104th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Urological Association (AUA).

Who is it for?

Drinking pomegranate juice daily may help men who have undergone surgical and/or radiotherapy treatment for localised prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. who have a rising PSA level post treatment.

How does it work?

Pomegranates contain a powerful mixture of anti-oxidant chemicals. Researchers believe that the properties of the fruit may be able to help the body's own natural defence system slow down the recurrence and progression of prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body..

In the research programme, men who drank 8 fl oz of pomegranate juice daily showed a significant decrease in PSA doubling time following treatment for prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body.. This suggests that pomegranate juice may effectively slow the progression of prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body..

Research is also underway to assess the effectiveness of pomegranate juice as a preventative measure against prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body..

What stage in development has it reached?

The study is currently at phase three to evaluate further the benefits of pomegranate juice in a placebo-controlled analysis. The study is being carried out in the USA by researchers at the Department of Urology, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, USA.

Introducing nerve-blocking drugs to reduce prostatectomy recovery time

Advances in surgical procedure - including laparoscopic and robotic assisted surgery - have made radical prostatectomyThe surgical removal of the entire prostate gland. less invasive and reduced recovery time after the operation. Now researchers are hoping that the use of nerveBundle of fibres that carries information in the form of electrical impulses.-blocking medication will make it possible for prostatectomy procedures to be performed as day-surgery.

What is it?

Nerve-blocking drugs are a type of anaestheticA medication that reduces sensation. that can be injected into a specific part of the body during surgery. In the days and weeks after surgery the drugs slowly release.

How does it work?

For prostatectomy surgery, the drugs are injected into the abdominal wall during surgery.

Who is it for?

The drugs are for men who are undergoing radical prostatectomyThe surgical removal of the entire prostate gland. who need or wish to reduce their time in hospital. The drugs will also help men to return to normal life more quickly after surgery.

What stage in development has it reached?

The correct formula for the drug is currently being researched. Once this has been perfected, the drug can move forward to the clinical trial process. The drug has already been successfully used for day-surgery in the UK, but research needs to be carried out with larger study groups before the drug can be used more widely.

Nanotechnology for post-surgery PSA level tracking

What is it?

Researchers have been working hard to develop a test to predict whether cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. will return after surgery.

How does it work?

While there is still much debate over the accuracy of PSA testing to diagnose aggressive prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body., PSA tracking once diagnosed is still an important part of prognosis. PSA levels are usually undetectable for between 5-7 years after surgery, making it very difficult to indicate if a prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. is likely to recur. This new form of testing allows researchers to detect very minute levels of PSA that have previously been extremely unlikely to show up using normal PSA tests. Using an approach known as 'nanotechnology', very tiny particles of gold are used to trace PSA in the bloodA fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid..

Who is it for?

This test could be used for patients who had undergone surgery for prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. to help to diagnose at a much earlier stage if their cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. was likely to return.

What stage in development has it reached?

This new test is in very early development and trial numbers were very low. It will need to be trialed on much larger numbers of patients but this first stage development looks promising for the future of post-surgery PSA tracking.

Clinical trials

Clinical trials are a form of medical research using volunteer participants. Trials are vital for developing new treatments for disease and are carried out in all areas of medicine, including cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body..

A trial can be conducted to test new treatment options including drugs, technology and procedures. Trials can also test existing treatments, sometimes in conjunction with other treatments, to study their effectiveness and possible development.

The results from clinical trials help researchers develop new treatments and learn more about the illness on which they are focussed

If you are interested in taking part in a trial that, speak to your doctor who will advise you whether the trial is suitable for your circumstances.

For clinical trials databases that you can search trial in your area go to: