Big stride in cancer battle
QUEENSLAND researchers may have discovered a new way of diagnosing prostate cancer, gauging how advanced it is, and predicting how well men will respond to treatment.
If their findings are validated in large patient trials, they believe their work could eventually lead to more individualised treatments for prostate cancer patients and improved quality of life.
Scientist Carolina Soekmadji, of the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, said studies had shown that molecules, known as extracellular vesicles, or EVs, in patients’ blood could potentially be used by doctors to provide an up-to-date picture of treatment response in men with advanced prostate cancer – those whose disease has spread to other areas of the body.
Such information is considered vital for a patient’s quality of life, given that one of the most commonly used treatments, androgen deprivation therapy, has many unpleasant side effects, including erectile dysfunction and osteoporosis.
“By looking at these molecular biomarkers within the body, doctors could potentially gauge what level of treatment a patient needs,” Dr Soekmadji said.
“Clinicians may one day be able to use this information to tailor therapies to suit the biological background and makeup of each patient.”
She said the secretion of a particular type of EV was found to be higher in patients with prostate cancer than it was for men who had an enlarged, but non-cancerous, prostate. The same molecules were found in higher numbers in patients with advanced prostate cancer, alongside circulating tumour cells.
“While further investigation is needed, this tells us that the presence of EV molecules could be important not only as a prostate cancer biomarker for diagnosis and prognosis, but in order to make a more informed prediction of treatment response,” she said.
In 2014, 3891 Queenslanders were diagnosed with prostate cancer and 597 men died.