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Cancer Research calls for better prostate cancer tests

Better tests to define how aggressive a prostate cancer is needed, Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute said, after it was reported that more than half of a group of men whose cancers were initially classified as slow-growing and confined turned out to have more dangerous tumours.

Urological surgeon Greg Shaw said:

This highlights the urgent need for better tests to define how aggressive a prostate cancer is from the outset, building on diagnostic tests like MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans, and new biopsy techniques which help to more accurately define the extent of the prostate cancer.

This would then enable us to counsel patients with more certainty whether the prostate cancer identified is suitable for active surveillance or not.

Whilst active surveillance would seem to be a safe approach for some men, nearly a third will end up needing surgery or radiotherapy within five years.

Men with prostate cancer 'given false hope' by tests

Men with prostate cancer are being given false hope by tests that underestimate the aggressiveness of their disease, a study suggests.

Researchers found that more than half of a group of men whose cancers were initially classified as slow-growing and confined turned out to have more dangerous tumours.

Men with prostate cancer 'given false hope', new study suggests. Credit: PA

The findings, published in the British Journal Of Cancer, call into question the ability of experts to grade and stage prostate cancers on the basis of biopsy samples.

It also casts doubt on the "active surveillance" strategy of avoiding unnecessary radical treatment for patients with slow-growing prostate cancer.

Instead, these patients are often closely monitored but left alone until tests suggest their condition has worsened.


How scientists found a new test for prostate cancer

In order to develop a new DNA test that can identify men at high risk of recurring prostate cancer, scientists analysed biopsy tissue samples taken from 126 treated men with the disease who were thought to be at intermediate risk of their cancer returning.

  • Researchers then looked at each patient's whole genetic code, searching for missing, extra, or irregular sections of DNA so they could identify signature patterns linked to a high or low risk of recurring cancer
  • The test was used to predict outcomes for a second group of 150 patients who had their prostate tumours removed by surgery.
  • A secondary study found that tumours affected by hypoxia - starved of oxygen - were most associated with worse survival
  • Men with low levels of genetic changes and low hypoxia had the best outcomes, with 93% lasting five years without their cancer recurring
  • Only 49% of men with high levels of genetic alterations and high hypoxia escaped a cancer recurrence for five years.

New DNA test identifies prostate cancer risk

A new DNA test can identify men at high risk of recurring prostate cancer with almost 80% accuracy, say scientists.

A new biopsy test can identify men at high risk of recurring prostate cancer with almost 80% accuracy, say scientists. Credit: PA

The biopsy test singles out patients likely to relapse after surgery or radiotherapy by looking for specific genetic changes at 100 sites in DNA.

Researchers from the University of Toronto, Canada, believe the "genetic signature" test will help doctors determine which patients need extra help after initial treatment.

Professor Robert Bristow, lead scientist, said: "Existing methods for identifying high risk patients are imperfect, so new tests are required that are better at predicting which patients will have their cancer recur.

"These men can then be offered additional treatments, such as chemo and hormone therapy, that will combat the prostate cancer throughout their entire body, rather than therapies solely focused on the prostate, in order to improve their chances of survival.

"This is the first report of a test using information derived from biopsy samples that can predict with close to 80% accuracy which men are at high or low risk of their prostate cancer recurring."

'Men using these supplements should stop'

Vitamin E and selenium pills are putting men at significantly increased risk of prostate cancer, a group of US scientists has warned in findings published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

These supplements are popular - especially vitamin E - although so far no large, well-designed and well-conducted study has shown any benefits for preventing major chronic disease.

Men using these supplements should stop, period. Neither selenium nor vitamin E supplementation confers any known benefits, only risks...

We know from several other studies that some high-dose dietary supplements - that is, supplements that provide far more than the daily recommended intakes of micronutrients - increase cancer risk.

– Study leader Dr Alan Kristal, from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle,


Prostate cancer drug restrictions a 'cruel twist'

Nice's decision to withhold a breakthrough prostate cancer drug is a "cruel twist" as it comes "just days" after a study confirmed its success, campaigners have said.

Prostate Cancer UK called on Nice, who vet the cost effectiveness of medicine for NHS patients, to change its "post-chemo" policy on new drugs.

Enzalutamide is already licensed for those who've had chemotherapy but this trial will hopefully establish a robust base of evidence to demonstrate that it should be available beforehand.

This is good news but sadly won't help the one man an hour who dies of prostate cancer at present.

We need to see drugs like enzalutamide available sooner rather than later, and so it's a cruel twist that this study comes just days after Nice ruled out the drug for men who have already had chemotherapy and the only other drug available at this stage, abiraterone.

– Mikis Euripides, policy director at Prostate Cancer UK

'Lack of evidence' behind prostate cancer drug decision

A lack of evidence is behind the NHS' decision to withhold a breakthrough prostate cancer drug from patients who have already been treated using another new generation drug, Nice said.

A spokeswoman for Nice said the committee were unable to "draw any conclusions" about what would happen if "milestone" enzalutamide was used by prostate cancer sufferers who had also taken abiraterone.

In the trial data provided by the manufacturer of enzalutamide none of the patients had received previous treatment with abiraterone, therefore the committee was not able to draw any conclusions about the effectiveness of enzalutamide after previous abiraterone treatment, and this is reflected in the recommendations.

We would welcome any additional data the manufacturer of enzalutamide can provide.

– Nice spokeswoman

NHS restricts use of 'milestone' prostate cancer drug

Prostate cancer medicine hailed as a "milestone" breakthrough may not be available to every patient after a revision of the drug guidelines, according to the NHS.

Anyone who has taken abiraterone would not be eligible for enzalutamide, Nice has said. Credit: PA

Men in England who have already been treated with a new-generation cancer drug would not be eligible for Enzalutamide, according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice).

Nice, the public body which decides the cost-effectiveness of medicines for NHS patients, said the new drug should not be used by patients who had already taken abiraterone.

Enzalutamide blocks molecular signals driving prostate cancer and improved survival by 30% in men who had not undergone chemotherapy.

A further 80% of men with advanced cancer had the progression delayed, even if the tumour had failed to respond to other treatments.

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