In the United States, prostate cancer affects about one in seven men. It’s the second leading cause of cancer death, according to the American Cancer Society (ACA). Prostate cancer risks include advancing age, African-American ethnicity, and a first-degree relative with prostate cancer. This disease affects about 80 percent of men over age 70 (See video below). Doctors will diagnose about 233,000 new American cases in 2014.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Your prostate gland’s main function is to produce a secretion that’s essential to your sperm’s survival and mobility. Benign or malignant growths may exert pressure on and destroy the glandular tissue. This can cause prostate specific antigens (PSA) that this gland produces to leak into your bloodstream in increased amounts.
The ACA recommends discussing the uncertainties, risks, and potential benefits of prostate cancer screening with your doctor. Have this conversation at age 50 if your risk is average and you expect to live at least 10 more years. Start at 45 when your risk is high and 40 if more than one first-degree relative had prostate cancer at an early age. Screening includes a PSA blood test and possibly a digital rectal exam. After testing negative, schedule future screenings based on your PSA results.
Even if you test positive, most tumors are slow-growing, symptom-free and nonspreading. Your doctor may prescribe Zytiga (Abiraterone Acetate) in conjunction with other medications like Prednisone. Most prostate cancers need the testosterone male hormone that your testes and adrenal glands produce to grow. Zytiga blocks an enzyme necessary for testosterone production. Without this hormone, cancer cells grow slower or stop developing.
Prevention: Tomatoes Reduce Prostate Cancer Risk
Researchers compared diets and lifestyles of 1806 prostate cancer patients between the ages of 50 and 69 against 12,005 cancer-free men. They found that men who ate more than 10 tomato servings per week reduced their prostate cancer risk by 18 percent. The authors attributed this benefit to lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that helps fight off toxins causing DNA and cell damage.
This study is the first of its kind to develop a prostate cancer dietary index comprised of lycopene, selenium, and calcium. Men with optimal intakes of these three components had lower risks of developing prostate cancer. The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) recommend a high intake of fruits, vegetables, and dietary fiber for prostate cancer prevention. The researchers noted that men also should maintain healthy weights and be physically active.
Detection: Dogs Sniff out Prostate Cancer in Urine
Investigators found that highly trained dogs can detect prostate cancer in urine with 98 percent accuracy. The study’s 362 prostate cancer patients ranged from very-low-risk tumors to metastatic disease. In the control group’s 540 men and women, conditions varied from generally good health to other types of cancer and non-tumor related diseases. Two 3-year old female German shepherds with explosive-detection experience received five months of training at a military veterinary center. They learned to distinguish certain distinctive scents in urine. When these dogs identified prostate-cancer-specific volatile organic compounds (VOCs) correctly, they received rewards.
Amazingly, the first dog achieved 100 percent precision at detecting prostate cancer patients’ samples and 98 percent accuracy in eliminating those from participants without the disease. The second dog evaluated prostate cancer in urine correctly 98.6 percent of the time and ruled out non-prostate-cancer patient specimens with 96.4 percent accuracy. Overall, the dogs had 16 false positives and four false negatives. The researchers report that this diagnostic method is reproducible, noninvasive, and low cost. It may help pinpoint high-risk patients better and reduce the number of unnecessary biopsies.
While human noses have roughly five million olfactory cells (receptors that distinguish different odors), dogs boast about 200 million. Dogs have helped law enforcement and military entities locate bombs, drugs, and missing people for years. Recent studies have shown that dogs also can alert patients to impending epileptic and diabetic seizures. Researchers continue testing dogs’ abilities to detect melanoma as well as breast, lung, bladder, and ovarian cancers.
Treatment: Lab-Created Organoids Personalize Medication Use
Scientists grew organoids, three-dimensional cell structures resembling organs, from human prostate cancer tumors in a Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center laboratory. Six originated from patients’ metastatic prostate cancer biopsies, and the seventh came from a patient’s circulating tumor cells. The organoids’ histology or tissue structure is identical genetically to the patient’s cancer. This discovery is an invaluable tool that can facilitate cancer drug testing and customize treatment.
Despite its prevalence, prostate cancer has been difficult to replicate in the lab. Previously available cell lines differed from their original sources and didn’t represent many mutations that contribute to cancer growth. Because they contain single cells, these lines didn’t offer the robust information that organoids resembling living organs can provide. With the addition of seven new prostate cancer organoids, the research team doubled the number of existing prostate cancer cell lines available for drug testing.
Although the use of organoids in studying cancer is relatively new, the field is exploding quickly. In 2009, other researchers demonstrated that intestinal stem cells could form organoids. This new study is the first to show that scientists can grow organoids from prostate cancer samples. The Sloan Kettering researchers are using them to test the effectiveness of multiple drugs simultaneously. In the future, testing medications on patients’ organoids prior to administration truly can personalize treatment.