About the Test
The new test only requires a typical blood sample. Scientists can detect tumor cells shed into the blood and measure how many copies of the androgen receptor gene are present. Most advanced prostate cancers rely on androgen receptor stimulation to grow. Currently, the targeted therapies abiraterone and enzalutamide are standard treatment for advanced prostate cancer, but men whose tumors have multiple copies of the androgen receptor gene tend to not respond very well to these drugs.
These drugs, while effective, have side effects such as:
- Joint pain
- Hot flashes
- Diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting
- High blood pressure
- Shortness of breath
- Urinary tract infections
The new test allows doctors to predict which men will not respond to these drugs and offer an alternative treatment instead. This will simultaneously spare the man from suffering from the side effects and allow him to receive a more effective treatment, therefore both prolonging his life and improving his quality of life.
Advanced Prostate Cancer
These tests are intended to be used only for men whose prostate cancer has spread beyond the local area and that has failed to respond to traditional hormone blocking therapy.
Although prostate cancer is very common, affecting around one out of nine men, most cases are slow-growing and localized and never progress to advanced cancer. In fact, the five-year survival rate for early stage prostate cancer is 100% and the vast majority of affected men die with prostate cancer rather than from it.
However, some cases are aggressive and invasive, and progress to advanced stages. The five-year survival rate for advanced prostate cancer is only 30%.
This test has been studied in three clinical trials so far and has shown promising results. Researchers say it needs further study, but they anticipate its routine use will improve the survival rate of patients with advanced prostate cancer.