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Every month we collate a selection of the latest clinically-relevant research to help you keep up to date with the most important developments in the field of prostate cancer.

Articles have been selected based on impact factor of the journal, relevance to UK clinical practice and general interest. You may be able to access the full text from your Trust's library service or via ATHENS registration. Information from PubMed explains other ways to access full text articles. 

May 2015

Research round up from the clinic - top five articles from May 2015:

1. Earlier chemotherapy treatment can keep men with advanced prostate cancer alive for longer

A press release from the UK-led trial STAMPEDE trial was recently published ahead of a presentation of the results at ASCO’s annual meeting in June 2015. The STAMPEDE trial found that adding docetaxel chemotherapy to standard hormone therapy markedly improves survival for men with newly diagnosed advanced prostate cancer not previously treated with hormone therapy (hormone-naïve). Men who received docetaxel plus standard therapy lived on average ten months longer than those who received only standard therapy. Director of Research, Dr Iain Frame, said: “The findings of this trial are potentially game-changing – we can’t wait to see the full results at ASCO.” Read Prostate Cancer UK’s comment on the preliminary results from the STAMPEDE trial here. We’ve tried to address some of the key questions the research has raised for men with prostate cancer have been answered here.

2. Prostate cancer gene map could help targeted drugs

Robinson and his colleagues conducted a prospective study, sequencing the genetic codes of bone, soft tissues, lymph nodes and liver from 150 patients with metastatic prostate cancer. The scientists, based in the UK and US, used this information to create a comprehensive map of the genetic mutations within lethal prostate cancers that have spread around the body. The study revealed that almost 90% of men with advanced prostate cancer carry genetic mutations in their tumours that could be targeted by either existing or new cancer drugs. Nearly two thirds of men in the study had mutations in a molecule that interacts with the male hormone androgen which is targeted by current standard treatments. Mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, often know for their roles in breast cancer, were found in nearly 20% of patients. The scientists also reported new mutations, previously never detected in prostate cancer, but which do occur in other cancers. Almost 90 per cent of men with advanced prostate cancer carry genetic mutations in their tumours that could be targeted by either existing or new cancer drugs. The study also reported some evidence which may strengthen the case for genetic screening for people with a family history of the disease. The scientists believe the results of this study provide evidence that clinical sequencing in advanced prostate cancer is feasible and could impact treatment decisions in significant numbers or patients. In response to the publication of this exciting and ground-breaking research Dr Iain Frame, Director of Research at Prostate Cancer UK said: “This could provide the information about the best routes of attack in each individual case, which is crucial if we are to reduce the number of men dying needlessly from this disease. What’s more, many of the genetic changes they have identified could potentially be targeted by existing drugs.” More information and news on the study results can be found on the Institute of Cancer Research website (here).

3. Can statins slow the progress of prostate cancer?

Researchers from Boston, Harshman et al., investigated the effects of statins in men being treated with hormone therapy. The researchers looked at the clinical records of 926 men whose prostate cancer had either returned after treatment, or who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer that had already started to spread. Almost one third of those men were already taking some form of statin at the time that they initiated hormone therapy. The results also showed that it took longer for the cancer to progress in men who were taking statins at the same time as hormone therapy than in those who weren’t. Dr Iain Frame, Director of Research at Prostate Cancer UK said: “Whilst we continue to explore why men’s cancers stop responding to hormone therapies, this study suggests that taking statins alongside established treatments could be an effective and affordable way to extend the time that they can keep the cancer in check.” Read Prostate Cancer UK's comment on the research here.

4. Benefits of exercise for prostate cancer survivors

Phillips and colleagues from the United States assessed the relationships between types and intensities of activity and sedentary behaviour and the quality of life of almost 2,000 men diagnosed with non-metastatic prostate cancer. After controlling for potential confounders (e.g. pre-diagnosis physical activity and sedentary time) the researchers reported findings indicating higher duration of total, non-vigorous activity and walking, were associated with better hormone/vitality functioning (e.g. hot flushes, depression and changes in body weight). It was also noted that the data suggests engaging in just 90 min of normal/brisk walking per week may provide some benefits. The relationship between activity and hormone/vitality function appeared to be even stronger in longer-term survivors, and those who have chronic conditions and were diagnosed with more advanced disease indicating that targeting programmes and treatments at these groups may be particularly beneficial for improving prostate cancer-specific health-related quality of life.

5. Obesity link to prostate cancer may vary by race

In this prospective study, Barrington and colleagues investigated whether the association between obesity and prostate cancer risk differs by race. Data from over 3,000 African-American and more than 22,000 non-Hispanic white men were analysed. The reported body mass index (BMI) was positively associated with prostate cancer risk among African-American men, but there was no association of BMI and risk among non-Hispanic white men. African-American men considered to be severely obese (>35 kg/m2) were twice as likely (103% or a hazard ratio of 2.03) to be diagnosed with prostate cancer, compared to non-Hispanic white men. The study also looked at the association of body mass and race on the grading of prostate cancer (e.g. Gleason score). The researchers identified the need to understand the mechanisms underpinning the associations, although they also suggest that reducing obesity among African-American men could reduce the racial disparity in cancer incidence.

April 2015

Research round up from the clinic - top four articles from April 2015: 

1. Chronic prostatitis and chronic pelvic pain syndrome: a new consensus guideline

Chronic prostatitis and chronic pelvic pain have a significant impact on patients’ quality of life and there is currently a lack of robust published evidence and guidance on how to recognise and manage the conditions, particularly for practitioners working in primary care. Prostate Cancer UK put together a Prostatitis Expert Reference Group (PERG) to develop a consensus guideline to help address this. The consensus guideline is now available in a peer-reviewed publication as an open-access article (here). Additional information and documents relating to the consensus guidelines can also be found on the Prostate Cancer UK website (here).

2. Review of recent findings in young-age prostate cancer

A review, by Hussein and Colleagues from Canada, looked to identify characteristic features of prostate cancer in men at young age as opposed to prostate cancers identified in older men. The authors highlighted findings including that young-age prostate cancer has several biological and genetic features, distinct from elderly-onset prostate cancer. They also suggested that most patients with prostate cancer at a young age tend to have low-grade and stage disease compared with elderly-onset prostate cancer. Other take home messages the authors reported included BRCA2 mutation carriers have an increased risk of early-onset prostate cancer with a more aggressive biology.

3. Evolutionary history of prostate cancer

Gundem et al. looked at how the disease spreads around the body, and how it evolves to become resistant to treatment. The authors used whole-genome sequencing to characterise multiple metastases arising from prostate tumours. Cancer Research UK have written an in-depth science blog about the research the group have carried out: Migration, settlement, and more migration: how prostate cancers spread.

4. Protein that may signal more aggressive prostate cancers

University of Michigan researchers, Ge et al., previously discovered a regulatory mechanism in bone cells, Runx2. In a recent paper they published in the journal Oncogene they reported these biomarkers seemed to play a crucial role in the rapid growth of tumours, and highlighted its value as a potential diagnostic marker and therapeutic target.

March 2015

Research round up from the clinic - top three articles from March 2015

1: Black men less willing than White men to be tested for prostate cancer

Researchers at the Universities of Exeter and Bristol and University College London conducted a study with more than 500 men, attending general practices in Bristol, in which they were presented with realistic hypothetical scenarios - each included a description of a prostate cancer symptom and the estimated risk of prostate cancer. Martins et al found that preference for investigation was lower in Black men irrespective of the risk presented in the scenario. This difference was strongest in relation to the scenarios associated with the lowest risk level, with just 44% of Black males opting for investigation compared with 91% of White males. In both groups, the most common reason for declining investigation was low risk, but significantly more Black men stated that they simply did not want to know if they had cancer. Read our reaction to this research.

2: Detecting cancer cells in blood can give an early warning of treatment failure

A blood test that measures the number of cells shed from prostate tumours into the bloodstream can act as an early warning sign that treatment is not working. Scher et al showed that measuring the numbers of circulating tumour cells and lactate dehydrogenase level in the blood predicted which men were benefitting least from abiraterone after 12 weeks of treatment.

3: Evidence that a family history of prostate cancer increases a women’s risk of breast cancer

Beebe-Dimmer at al followed 78,171 women between 1993 and 1998. By 2009, 3,506 of them had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Women whose fathers or brothers had prostate cancer had a 14% greater risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer, while women with a family history of both breast and prostate cancer had a 78% increased risk. Read more on this research.