Clinical trials are a vital step in developing new treatments, but they can also help us to better understand the side-effects of existing treatments. We're funding Professor Beth Grunfeld to carry out a study to see how men respond to the effects of hormone therapy and she explains why it's so important for men to take part in clinical research.
The Life After Prostate Cancer Diagnosis survey recently revealed the extent of the physical side effects men experience after treatment with hormone therapy (or androgen deprivation therapy) for advanced prostate cancer. Many men reported problems with fatigue, hot flushes, or weight gain, but what is less understood is what effect these treatments have on men mentally.
Professor Beth Grunfeld is a psycho-oncologist – a specialist in the psychological effects cancer that can have. Almost 15 years ago, while researching how people return to normal life following cancer treatment, she found that some men who’d had hormone therapy said they found it difficult to concentrate or focus on certain tasks, while some said they struggled to remember as well as they did before treatment.
The problem is, it’s hard to work out whether the hormone therapy is responsible for these changes, or if they’re due to something else. For example, feeling tired, stressed or anxious can all affect your memory and ability to concentrate, and these changes can also happen as you get older. We’re funding Professor Grunfeld to delve into this.
In her study, CogCan, Professor Grunfeld is comparing memory, attention, and other indicators of brain function in men who are having hormone therapy and those who aren’t. She’ll work out how many men these changes affect, and whether hormone therapy has a part to play.
"We’re trying to understand which men feel affected by changes to their concentration and memory, and which men don’t. We want to know why some people don’t experience any changes - is there something about them that we can use in the future to help men who might experience changes?"
In both groups of men, Professor Grunfeld will take a blood sample and conduct some MRI brain scans. Biological data like this could provide invaluable clues to predict the chances of having memory and attention changes.
"If we know who’s more likely to experience these effects, then maybe there’s something we can do early on to help men through those changes. For me as a psychologist, I’m interested in how we can help men now. Clinically-based research like this is really rewarding and, for me, the best part is the stage where you can apply your research and make a real impact."
My proudest moments are when people say: ‘Thank you for letting me take part in your study, you’ve made a big difference to me’. Those moments are so valuable.
Research like this is entirely reliant on the goodwill of those who take part and Professor Grunfeld is looking for more men to get involved.
She said: "The men who take part get to learn something about their brain function – they can take a copy of their scan home if they want to. But more importantly, they’re playing a vital part in the future of men who will have to face prostate cancer.
"My proudest moments are when people say: ‘Thank you for letting me take part in your study, you’ve made a big difference to me’. Those moments are so valuable."
If you have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, but not yet had hormone therapy, you may be eligible to take part in Professor Grunfeld’s trial. To find out more, get in touch with your medical team. Or visit our new clinical trials map to search for more studies funded by us that you may be suitable to take part in.