Clinical trial improves prostate cancer treatment options
Who: Jack Shore, living with prostate cancer, Port Colborne
Dr Laurence Klotz, oncologist, Toronto
What: A clinical trial supported by the Canadian Cancer Society found that men with prostate cancer who took breaks from hormone therapy lived as long and experienced fewer side effects and better quality of life as men taking continuous therapy.
Why: The trial is changing how prostate cancer is treated and improving the lives of thousands of men in Canada.
Jack Shore is no typical 67-year-old. As a power skating instructor, avid gym goer and boxer, he has a lifestyle of someone half his age. Jack’s life was turned upside down in 2006 after being diagnosed with prostate cancer. He had surgery and radiation treatment, but almost two years later, his prostate specific antigen (PSA) level – a marker of prostate cancer – started to rise rapidly.
Hormone therapy was the next treatment option. These injections slow the growth and spread of prostate cancer cells but they come with many side effects that may drastically impact the lives of the men who receive it.
After Jack’s first round of hormone injections, side effects hit him almost immediately. Despite his active lifestyle, he gained weight, lost muscle mass and experienced fatigue and hot flashes. But most troubling to Jack was the onset of depression.
“I was really bothered by my change in physical condition, but the worst was the depression,” he says. “I was used to a certain lifestyle and I just wanted it back.”
Until recently, many prostate cancer patients received continuous hormone therapy. But a clinical trial supported by the Canadian Cancer Society is changing that. Work led by Dr Laurence Klotz and Dr Juanita Crook found that men who took breaks from hormone therapy lived as long as those receiving continuous therapy. Moreover, their quality of life improved. This type of treatment regime also lowers costs for our publicly funded healthcare system.
“This research means that most men going on hormonal treatment no longer require it for life. It’s not often you have a treatment that both saves money and improves quality of life, and potentially improves survival,” says Dr Klotz.
In Canada, roughly 24,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year, with 25 to 30 per cent needing hormone therapy as part of their treatment. Work funded by the Canadian Cancer Society is giving thousands of men each year an alternative to continuous hormone therapy.
Jack and his doctor decided to try intermittent hormone therapy. Jack’s first two injections successfully controlled his cancer for three years. Then Jack needed another series of two injections.
“This type of cancer is life-altering,” says Jack. “I don’t like hormone therapy at all but if I am going to have to go through it, by being allowed breaks, I feel like I have some control over it.”
Two years after his last hormone injection, Jack is finally starting to feel like his old self. “I’ll have this cancer for the rest of my life, so my quality of life has become a priority to me,” he says. “I’m thankful that the Canadian Cancer Society funds research that is helping to improve treatment options for patients like me.”
We realize that our efforts cannot even be compared to what women face when they hear the words ... ‘you have cancer.’
Great progress has been made
Some cancers, such as thyroid and testicular, have survival rates of over 90%. Other cancers, such as pancreatic, brain and esophageal, continue to have very low survival rates.