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No need to treat majority of prostate cancers

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

A large study shows there is no need to treat the majority of prostate cancers. Researchers have isolated a protein that can predict how prostate cancer will progress. The findings, published in the British Journal of Cancer, could be used to develop a blood test that tells physicians when prostate cancer has become aggressive.

The study is the largest of its kind to look at outcomes between aggressive and non-aggressive prostate cancer. Scientists followed 4,000 prostate cancer patients over a period of 15 years to gain an understanding of the how the disease progresses. A protein called Hsp-27, in cancer cells was discovered by pathologists that with careful monitoring can predict prostate cancer behavior, and whether treatment should be initiated.

The protein was not found in sixty percent of prostate cancers. Men with non-aggressive prostate cancer can live for years with no negative impact on quality of life. The presence of Hsp-27 protein in cells is a sign that prostate cancer will become aggressive. When the protein is not present, careful monitoring of prostate cancer may be all that is needed, compared to surgery and treatment with drugs.

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The Hsp-27 protein helps healthy cells that become stressed survive. It also can prevent cancer cells from dying, allowing prostate cancer to spread. The study concluded that “Hsp-27 is an accurate and independent predictive biomarker of aggressive disease with poor clinical outcome.”

Professor Chris Foster, Head of the University's Division of Pathology says, "Cancer of any kind is a very distressing disease and has the ability to impact on every aspect of a person's life. Chemotherapy and surgery can also have a significant effect on health and wellbeing and that is why it is important that we first understand the biological nature of the disease and how it will behave in each individual patient, before determining if and when a person needs a particular type of treatment.”

The study shows that by monitoring the HsP-27 protein, physicians can know when to initiate prostate cancer treatment. The result is less interference with life for men who undergo surgery and other prostate cancer interventions. The researchers write, “We have shown that in the majority of cases, however, this marker is not expressed and therefore patients do not necessarily need to go through [prostate cancer] treatment to lead a normal life."

Source: BJC
Kathleen Blanchard RN
Charlotte, NC
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