On a spring afternoon, Dr. Sigmund Panitch and nine other doctors were talking about the most overlooked population in cancer: Prostate cancer. Unbeknownst to many of them, the main group involved in the illness is men who’ve had surgery for prostate cancer. It’s a surprising group, said Panitch, a surgeon and neurosurgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. He works with men who have been affected by prostate cancer to repair the damage. Instead of treatment that kills their physical tissue, the men use experimental methods that reconnect arteries, nerves and the muscles of the abdomen and groin to increase blood flow. The team has published dozens of papers in medical journals and serves as scientific adviser to Prostate Cancer Foundation in New York City. Panitch has been closely involved in a new clinical trial that will be conducted with 100 active patients at the University of Chicago’s medical center.
The research team recently analyzed eight cohorts, including the groundbreaking study that identified the “prostate cancer genetic signature.” In the United States, as many as 45 percent of the men with prostate cancer have genetic mutations that put them at a higher risk for the disease. The profiles of those prostate cancer patients may have clues about how they responded to treatment with anti-cancer drugs such as cabazitaxel, an oral medication that was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
For men with cancer, the message from that study was clear: Certain genetic mutations and characteristics might affect their response to therapy, just as other risk factors can, explained Dr. Gregory Witt, a physician and member of the team from the University of Chicago Medicine. “The lab has identified markers that could help identify and guide treatment,” he said.
The next step, said Witt, is to develop treatments that can address these markers. The trial is designed to do just that: Dr. Witt hopes that it will prove the benefits of a “risk stratified treatment approach” and provide medical professionals with the information they need to ensure that the men participating in the trial respond well to prostate cancer drugs.
The timeline is long. Researchers need to establish the trial’s value before presenting the data to the medical community. “We have a large number of men who have shown an apparent drug response, but the actual response is not understood to be a true drug response,” Witt said. “This is because they [the physicians] have done the wrong thing by concentrating on using the drug for several months after a partial benefit. We want to answer this question: What should they do for the men who are showing a partial benefit?”
After years of trial and error, the team at Lenox Hill is confident that the new trial is the right approach. The results have already begun to come in.
Read the full story at The New York Times.
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