16 June 2015

Experts say new approaches to treating advanced prostate cancer could lead to "no men dying from prostate cancer" within a decade.

A scenario just one decade from now where no Australian men die of prostate cancer could become a reality if innovative, evidence-based approaches to treating the advanced form of the disease are implemented and co-ordinated more effectively.

This is the view of Australian prostate cancer experts and advocates who say research is now emerging that shows new treatments delivered in new sequences have the potential to significantly increase the poor survival rates of men with advanced prostate cancer.

According to Associate Professor Anthony Lowe, CEO of Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, solving the tragedy of low survival rates for men with advanced prostate cancer is a huge priority for the prostate cancer community. "In Australia prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer with 19,993 new cases in 2011. It is the fourth most common cause of male deaths overall after coronary heart disease, lung cancer and cerebrovascular disease with over 3,000 deaths a year," said Professor Lowe. "So we need to focus resources on making sure we are treating the advanced form of the disease as effectively as possible. It is literally a matter of life and death."

Professor Lowe believes that part of the challenge is to consider key learnings for prostate cancer from co-ordinated efforts to reduce the impact of other diseases around the world. "If a concerted international effort could be mobilised - similar to the HIV/ AIDS program from decades ago - could we stop men dying from prostate cancer?  It’s not so much about a cure but rather delaying the onset of advanced metastatic prostate cancer. We owe it to Australian men with advanced prostate cancer to explore this kind of concerted effort," said Professor Lowe.

Professor Paul De Souza, Foundation Professor of Medical Oncology at University of Western Sydney and Ingham Institute, Liverpool Hospital says there are exciting clinical options emerging for the future.

"Clearly we need to be very diligent in assessing the side effect implications of introducing new medicines in different sequences. Keeping men alive is important but so is quality of life."

According to Professor De Souza, "The key areas of research are looking at the use of chemotherapy earlier, the use of chemotherapy in combination with other medicines, new therapies in different sequences/combinations and the prospect of introducing new therapies prior to chemotherapy."

"It is hard to conceive a scenario in the immediate term where no men will die from prostate cancer but there is very promising research emerging into the treatment of advanced prostate cancer and it is crucial that we continue the discussion into how we can do much better" he says.