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New treatment can more than double life expectancy for people with prostate cancer: doctor


In the midst of Movember, a campaign that raises money and awareness for men's health, particularly prostate cancer, advocates are shining a light on the event and the disease.

For the month of November, men are asked to grow and groom a moustache and start conversations about prostrate and testicular cancers, as well as mental health.

According to the campaign's website, one in eight Canadian men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime, making it the most diagnosed cancer among Canadian men.

The Movember event started in Australia in 2003 with other countries, like Canada in 2007, joining over time. Since then, the event has raised millions of dollars to help men stay healthy.

Dr. Ricardo Rendon, a urologic oncologist and professor in Dalhousie University’s department of urology, says there has been a lot of progress in prostate cancer research over the last 10 years, from diagnosing the disease to treating it.

"Specifically for early cases, we have improved the way we operate on patients with new equipment, same thing with radiation therapy. From advanced prostate cancer point-of-view... we have been able to more than double the life expectancy of patients with advanced prostate cancer," said Rendon in an interview with CTV Morning Live Monday. 

Rendon says some of these advancements are thanks to PSMA, also known as prostate-specific membrane antigen. 

"The PSMA is a molecule in the prostate and it's pretty specific to prostate and prostate cancer itself," he said. "So, it is what we call targeted diagnostic or therapeutic option. So, when you have that molecule that is specific to the prostate, we actually can label it with our radioactive substance and we can see that molecule lighting up in X-ray,and that's what we call PSMA PET scan. So, it's specifically to be able to identify prostate cancer that is within the prostate or outside of the prostate."

According to Rendon, PSMA can also be found on other non-prostate tissues. He says, prior to PSMA, doctors would look at CT scans and bone scans.

"And we usually look at lumps or tumours based on size, usually about half-a-centimetre to a centimetre, and we assume that that's prostate cancer or other disease," he said. "But with this molecule and this type of testing, we can actually assume that it is prostate cancer because of a specific tumour marked for the prostate, so it is very, very accurate and sensitive for prostate cancer."

"And the same thing goes with the treatment. You can actually target the prostate cancer cell perse, and not treat the rest of the body when we give the patients chemotherapy, for instance, that goes everywhere in the body."

There are also medications that can help increase the life expectancy for those living with advanced prostate cancer.

"When we see patients with advanced prostate cancer, over the last 10 to 15 years, we have more than doubled the life expectancy and we have many, many treatments that go from pills, so oral treatments that can be taken daily with minimal side effects, to some types of chemotherapy, and now, this type of radiation therapy," said Rendon.

"So, we have many, many options. It's very exciting. We're seeing these patients in the clinic, not only do we have many things to offer, but also we know that we can extend their life expectancy by a lot and also improve their quality of life."

Although it's a new treatment, Rendon says most clinicians these days have access to the treatment.

"Because these treatments are so new, they're approved by Health Canada, but now we're starting to figure out how to use it in our particular provinces," he said. "Things have to be supported financially by the provinces, so we're now in the process of figuring out how we can get these treatments available into our actual provinces."

More information about the Movember movement and how you can support it can be found online. Top Stories

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