Overcoming Barriers to Quality Prostate Cancer Care

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Overcoming Barriers to Quality Prostate Cancer Care from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What barriers can impact access to clinical trials and quality prostate cancer care? Dr. Sumit Subudhi shares helpful advice for addressing these issues by sharing information about financial support, diversity resources, and travel assistance to aid in access to care and clinical trials.

Dr. Sumit Subudhi is an Associate Professor in the Department of Genitourinary Medical Oncology, Division of Cancer Medicine at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Learn more about Dr. Subudhi.

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Transcript:

Katherine:

Are there barriers that interfere with patients’ access to clinical trials? I think you touched on this but maybe if you have anything to add. 

Dr. Subudhi:

Yeah. So, travel can be a major barrier. And that’s something that the pharmaceutical industry understands. And, therefore, some of the trials, especially the multicenter trials, actually allow for travel cost. That sometimes includes flights, driving, hotels, food.  

So, that’s something that’s important to ask because sometimes when we’re thinking about clinical trials, we’re so anxious in the doctor’s office. And then it’s not until we go back home when we’re trying to figure out how do we get the resources to come so frequently. You’ll find out that’s sometimes travel costs. 

The other thing is underrepresented minorities are something that we’ve been doing a relatively poor job recruiting to our clinical trials. Part of that is just from history that we didn’t have the safety rules in place that we do now. And underrepresented minorities were affected negatively in some of the earlier trials.  

And the other thing is just the resources of getting to and from their homes to our cancer site as often as they need to because they may be the sole breadwinner in their homes and things like that. So, there are resources to try to help do this. But I still think we have to do a better job. 

Katherine:

Can trials be coordinated between a local doc and the institution? 

Dr. Subudhi:

So, most trials cannot. Most. But there are some that can. So, if it’s a standard of care treatment, sometimes we can have the safety visits done with the local doctors. But every time they’re going to get the treatment they have to come see us at the institution that is actually running the trial.  

But most of the time, what I tell all my patients is, “I want them to have a local doctor.” Because if there’s something that happens in the middle of the night, I want to be able to say, “You’re going to go to this emergency room where this doctor works.” And then when they go there, as soon as they get admitted into the emergency room center, I talk to the ER doctor, and I say, “This is what I want to be done. These are how these drugs work.” 

Because they’re not going to know what these experimental drugs are. They’re not available in the community. So, I just think it’s important to have communication, especially for our patients that are out of state. MD Anderson is in Houston, Texas. And Texas is so big that a lot of my patients live six to eight hours away, and they’re still in Texas.  

Katherine:

So, what are your thoughts on what could be done to overcome the barriers that some patients are experiencing? And are there resources available?  

Dr. Subudhi:

So, the pharmaceutical companies are putting in more financial resources as well as a diversity resource. And when I say diversity resources, those outreach programs just to make sure that the communities that are underserved are hearing about the clinical trials because if you don’t hear about it you’re never going to join it. So, one thing is just knowledge. 

And then, number two, we’re trying to create financial resources. For example, there’s Angel Flight as one example where they will pay for the flight for you. And they’ll put you on maybe a chartered plane or something or a smaller plane to defray the cost of traveling by air. So, there are things out there, but we still need a lot more. 

Katherine:

But one thing patients could do is talk to their healthcare team about what resources are available for them. 

Dr. Subudhi:

Absolutely. Absolutely. 

Katherine:

Before we end the program, Dr. Subudhi, I’d like to get your final thoughts. What message do you want to leave the audience with related to clinical trial participation? 

Dr. Subudhi:

First of all, thank you for even thinking about it. That’s the one big step. And for those of you who actually take the next step and actually join a clinical trial, again, thank you for being so brave. 

I think it’s a gift that you’re giving to other fellow patients with cancer. And it’s also a gift that you’re giving to the scientific and medical community, because we are learning by your participation in the trial. And I want you to know whether the trial worked for you or does not work for you, regardless, we’re going to learn something that’s going to help change outcomes in your cancer.

Prostate Cancer Clinical Trial Safety and Protocols

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Prostate Cancer Clinical Trial Safety and Protocols from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Expert Dr. Sumit Subudhi explains clinical trial safety protocols, the risks of participation, and addresses the patient concern of clinical trials as a last-resort treatment option.

Dr. Sumit Subudhi is an Associate Professor in the Department of Genitourinary Medical Oncology, Division of Cancer Medicine at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Learn more about Dr. Subudhi.

See More From Prostate Clinical Trials 201

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Tools for Choosing the Right Prostate Cancer Treatment Approach


Transcript:

Katherine:  

Patients also often have questions about safety. So, what are the risks of clinical trial participation? 

Dr. Subudhi:

So, safety is a major issue, especially more into the Phase I. The Phase I trial, if you remember, are the trials where we’re dose escalating, meaning we start off with a small cohort of patients, maybe three to five patients. And we give one dose of the drug. We see if it’s safe. If it’s safe, then we go to the next dosing level. And we just keep going until we find a dose that may be too toxic or too unsafe for our patient. 

So, in the Phase I, we have less information, especially in the first-in-human drugs. But in those cases, we are watching you carefully to make sure that nothing bad happens to you. 

But the problem with those trials is it requires a lot of time at the institution or with your doctor. For example, I’m doing a bispecific trial where we have to keep the patients inside the hospital for eight days, purely for safety reasons. They’re not getting the drug for all eight days. But we’re just keeping them under observation so in case anything bad happens we’re ready to react because we know that if something bad happens at their home in that first eight days, it could actually risk their lives. 

So, in those cases, some trials, if we’re concerned about safety, you’ll be spending more time in the doctor’s office or in a hospital being evaluated. So, that’s the one negative. But sometimes, the trials that can be more exhausting as far as the amount of time it takes you away from your home and family are the ones that have the most reward. 

Katherine:

Well, then it’s a tossup, isn’t it? 

Dr. Subudhi:

That’s right. 

Katherine:

You have to decide what’s more important. 

Dr. Subudhi:

That’s correct. 

Katherine:

Well, what protocols are in place to protect patients? 

Dr. Subudhi:

So, when they sign up for a protocol, we are instructed to give them our best information. So, let’s say it’s a first-in-human drug. Well, usually, first-in-human drugs are tested in other mammals, such as monkeys, and we look for toxicities there. And we have signs of what’s going to happen. Sometimes, a first-in-human drug is part of a class of drugs, like I talked to you about T-cell bispecifics. 

Well, there’s several T-cell bispecifics out there. And we’ve learned that this class of drugs has a unique set of side effects that they all tend to have. Some have it more, and some have it less. 

But when we’re discussing this with you or the patient, we are actually going to go through each and all of these side effects. Now, me personally, my patients that go on my trials, they all get my cellphone number so they have 24/7 access to me because I know they’re taking a risk. And it’s a lot of courage to go on these trials. And it’s scary. And I want to make sure they don’t feel like they’re ever alone. 

Katherine:

Another common concern we hear is that a clinical trial is only considered when there are no other treatment options available for a patient. What are your thoughts on this? 

Dr. Subudhi:

There’s a lot of my colleagues in the field that feel that way. And I know a lot of patients’ misconceptions are also that way. And that’s partly because of Hollywood and movies and TV shows that we watch. But I think that many people, especially in the medical field, think of clinical trials as the last resort. 

And I actually disagree with that. I think that I like to actually start my patients with one or two standard of care treatments. But after that, really start putting clinical trials in between. And we have to remember that there’s not always a clinical trial available that the patient actually meets the criteria for.  

So, it’s always disheartening in clinic when I meet someone for the very first time who was referred to me because they exhausted everything. And we just don’t have any clinical trials available, or they’re so weak from the cancer and all the prior treatments that they don’t qualify for a clinical trial. And then I really don’t have anything else to give them.  

So, my personal approach is to try to put clinical trials in between and always have something in my back pocket so that if they get a bit exhausted or they want to spend more time with friends and family, they can get the standard of care treatment. 

Understanding Prostate Cancer Clinical Trial Phases and Types

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Understanding Prostate Cancer Clinical Trial Phases and Types from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

How do prostate cancer clinical trials work? Dr. Sumit Subudhi shares what happens in each clinical trial phase and explains the function of open-label clinical trials, controlled clinical trials, randomized clinical trials, and double-blind randomized clinical trials.

Dr. Sumit Subudhi is an Associate Professor in the Department of Genitourinary Medical Oncology, Division of Cancer Medicine at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Learn more about Dr. Subudhi.

See More From Prostate Clinical Trials 201

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Transcript:

Katherine:

I’d like to define some clinical trial terminology to help patients further understand the process. Let’s start with the phases. What occurs during each phase?   

Dr. Subudhi:

So, great question. Phase I is the safety phase. So, all we’re trying to do is find the right dose of the drug that is actually safe to give in the patients. And we’re looking for the maximum tolerated dose. And once we find that dose, then we use that dose to go to Phase II of the trial. And Phase II trials are looking at efficacy. So, looking to see whether the trial is giving you any clinical benefit, meaning the cancer’s shrinking or even disappearing. 

Katherine:

Go on. 

Dr. Subudhi:

And then the third phase is Phase III where you’re testing the current drug, experimental drug, to either standard of care or to a placebo to see whether or not you get a benefit, either a progression-free survival benefit or overall survival benefit. And so, those are the three phases of clinical trials.  

Katherine:

What are the different types of clinical trials? 

Dr. Subudhi:

So, they’re controlled trials. Actually, I should back up. So, there’s open-label trials where everyone that enrolls in the trial will get the experimental drug. So, there is no control arms in these trials. Then there is the control trials where you can either get the drug, or you may get a placebo or standard of care drug.  

There are some trials that allow for crossover, meaning that if you’re in the placebo or standard of care arm, if your cancer progresses, you can actually cross over and get the experimental drug. But I just want to be clear that not all clinical trials have crossover. And if you’re in a control trial, I think that’s an important question to ask your doctors about that. 

But the reason why we do the control trials is that we’ve learned that using historical controls – for example, we’re doing a lot of combination studies with chemotherapy, such as docetaxel (Taxotere), which was FDA-approved in 2004. So, if we’re using historical data from almost 20 years ago, it’s not the same thing as our patients that are being treated with docetaxel now, because their treatment landscape has changed so much, and our patients have changed so much. 

And so, for that reason, control trials give us a better sense of how effective this experimental drug is doing as opposed to comparing it to a historical perspective. 

Katherine:

What other types of clinical trials are available? 

Dr. Subudhi:

So, there are a few other options. So, we talked about open-label where everyone’s guaranteed to get the drug. We talked about a controlled study where you will either get one drug or another. And another type is a randomized trial where a computer decides whether or not you’re going to actually get one drug versus another. It’s not your doctor because a lot of people think that I’m making that decision, and I’m not. It’s actually a random computer. 

And some trials have 1:1 ratio, meaning a 50 percent chance that you’ll get the experimental drug versus the control drug. But other trials have 1:2 ratio or 1:3 ratio. So, that’s something that, again, you have to ask your physician of how these trials are being randomized. 

Katherine:

Well, in a randomized clinical trial, the patient isn’t going to know what drug they’re being given. 

Dr. Subudhi:

Actually, that’s not true. 

Katherine:

Oh, it’s not. 

Dr. Subudhi:

So, you bring up a great question. So, there’s a double-blind randomized clinical trial where not only the patient doesn’t know, but even the physicians and the nurses. No one except for the pharmaceutical company that’s running the trial actually knows who’s actually getting which drug. And it’s only towards the end of the trial that we unblind, and then we share that information. Well, the pharmaceutical company first shares it with the medical team who then shares it with the patient. 

Katherine:

Are there other common clinical trial terms that you think patients should know about and understand? 

Dr. Subudhi:

I think for now those are… 

Katherine:

…they’re the most important? 

Dr. Subudhi:

I think to me those are the most important. And I think that sometimes too much information can bog us down. 

Katherine:

Well, speaking of information, there is a lot out there, some of which may not be very reliable. And that could lead many patients to having misconceptions about clinical trials. Let’s walk through a few common concerns we’ve heard from our community about trials. 

One frequent question is – will I receive a placebo instead of a real treatment? And, first, I’d like you to define placebo. And should this be a concern for patients? 

Dr. Subudhi:

Right. So, placebo is a drug that looks similar to the experimental drug. For example, if the experimental drug is a blue pill, then the placebo will be a blue pill. But it will be a pill that should have no known biological activity.  

If the experimental drug is given intravenously and you get it in a liquid bag, then the placebo will also come in a liquid bag. So, it will look the same. And that’s why both the medical team as well as the patients or their families will not know which drug the patients have received, meaning the experimental drug or the placebo. But the placebos are meant to not have any biological activity. 

Katherine:

So, it shouldn’t be a concern to patients then.   

Dr. Subudhi:

Well, the concern that most of my patients share with me when they hear about placebo-controlled trials is, “Well, if I’m not going to get the experimental drug, why should I do this? I mean what benefit does it have for me?” And so, I tell them that one of the benefits is that we are watching you very carefully. 

Because we don’t know sometimes which drug you’re getting. But in some control trials, like a randomized control trial, we will know because I’m not blinded.  

If you’re in the arm that’s only getting chemotherapy, well, you know you’re not getting an oral pill. So, it’s very clear to the patient what they’re getting. But if they’re getting an oral pill that’s a placebo, we’re watching them very carefully.  

So, we’re watching the patients very carefully in these placebo-controlled trials. And they’re coming in often so that we’re not going to miss any devastating things happening from the cancer. In fact, we’ll pick it up earlier than if they were just getting a standard of care outside of a trial. And for that reason I tell that my patients, “Don’t be worried.” And I always make sure that I have a backup plan. 

So, the backup plan is either they’re going to cross over, meaning the trial allows for them to cross over to get the experimental drug. Or I have another trial that I know that they will qualify for. Or the third alternative is that I actually have a standard of care drug that I’m ready to give them the second I have it so that they don’t have to have those concerns. 

What Should Prostate Cancer Patients Know About Clinical Trials?

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What Should Prostate Cancer Patients Know About Clinical Trials? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Clinical trials may be intimidating to some prostate cancer patients, so what do they need to know to address their concerns? Dr. Sumit Subudhi explains clinical trials and discusses the benefits of participation.

Dr. Sumit Subudhi is an Associate Professor in the Department of Genitourinary Medical Oncology, Division of Cancer Medicine at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Learn more about Dr. Subudhi.

See More From Prostate Clinical Trials 201

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Prostate Cancer Clinical Trial Safety and Protocols

Understanding Prostate Cancer Clinical Trial Phases and Types

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What Questions Should Prostate Cancer Patients Ask About Clinical Trials?


Transcript:

Katherine:

Prostate cancer research really can only move forward through clinical trials and patient participation in those trials. Can you briefly explain what a trial is for people who may not be familiar with the term? 

Dr. Subudhi:

That’s a great question. My own father has prostate cancer. And he had the same exact question when he started his journey in that. 

And so, what I explained to him is that clinical trials are experiments. They’re experiments that are done in our patients.  

So, they’re drugs that are thought to mechanistically kill the cancer cell or at least change the environment around the cancer cell to help people live longer. But these drugs were actually tested in mouse models or in tissue models. And we don’t know if they actually work in patients. 

And so, in clinical trials, we’re actually testing whether these drugs are safe and whether they’re efficacious or beneficial to our patients. So, I want to be very clear. When patients go on clinical trials, we don’t know if it’s going to work on them. And that’s something that they should know that they’re showing a lot of courage and risk in joining these trials.  

But the other point I want to make is that every standard of care drug that is out there actually went through the clinical trial process, and they were approved because they showed benefit in a group of patients. 

Katherine:

Well, how can a prostate cancer patient benefit from participating in a trial? 

Dr. Subudhi:

One of the key benefits is that you get access to drugs that may actually prolong your life or even cure you and that you wouldn’t have access to in trials.  

And so, some of my patients, unfortunately, they’ve exhausted all the standard of care choices that are out there. And the trial’s the only option left versus leaving it up to natural causes of demise from prostate cancer. And so, clinical trials give other opportunities to potentially live longer and have a great quality of life. 

Katherine:

So, they could offer some hope. 

Dr. Subudhi:

Definitely. As far as I’m concerned, yes. And, actually, with my patients, I try to not wait while they’ve exhausted all the treatments to start them on clinical trials, because I feel like we may be able to save some of these treatments in our back pocket for when they’re too exhausted to be coming to our clinic so often. And so, I like to actually try to get them enrolled in clinical trials early on in their journey with prostate cancer. 

What Prostate Cancer Research Is Showing Promise?

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What Prostate Cancer Research Is Showing Promise? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What areas of prostate cancer research are showing promise? Expert Dr. Sumit Subudhi explains ongoing research and shares an overview of prostate cancer treatment classes in development.

Dr. Sumit Subudhi is an Associate Professor in the Department of Genitourinary Medical Oncology, Division of Cancer Medicine at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Learn more about Dr. Subudhi.

See More From Prostate Clinical Trials 201

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Overcoming Barriers to Quality Prostate Cancer Care

Overcoming Barriers to Quality Prostate Cancer Care

Tools for Partnering in Your Prostate Cancer Care

Tools for Partnering in Your Prostate Cancer Care

Tools for Choosing the Right Prostate Cancer Treatment Approach

Tools for Choosing the Right Prostate Cancer Treatment Approach


Transcript:

Katherine:

I’d like to begin with an update on prostate cancer research. Would you walk us through the newer classes of treatments that are showing promise?  

Dr. Subudhi:

Yeah, in clinical trials, there are classes of drugs known as androgen receptor degraders. And so, the androgen receptor is a protein that basically is the mouth of the prostate cancer. That’s how I like to describe it. And it actually allows testosterone, which is the food, to be eaten by the mouth, and it actually helps the cancer grow. 

And what these drugs do is they actually degrade or break down the mouth of the cancer. And, therefore, it starves the cancer to death, and that’s actually the concept. And they seem to be showing some exciting activity in clinical trials, especially in those patients who are resistant to the second-generation hormonal drug that you may have heard of already, such as enzalutamide (Xtandi), apalutamide (Erleada), and darolutamide (Nubeqa). So, I think is something that we’re looking forward to seeing more data on. 

Another class of drugs are antibody drug conjugates or ADCs.  

And these are what I think of as heat-seeking missiles. So, one part of the drug actually recognizes the cancer, and the other part of the drug actually has a payload that sort of releases a bomb or sort of like chemotherapy-type agent right where the cancer’s located and kills the cancer in that way. And we’re seeing some great clinical activity in prostate cancer with this class of drugs. 

And then the final one is bispecifics, and in particular T-cell bispecifics. So, T cells are part of the immune system that actually help kill the cancer.  

And, unfortunately, prostate cancer, like some other cancers like pancreatic and glioblastoma, have few T cells inside it. And, therefore, a lot of the immunotherapies that many people have heard about, such as ipilimumab (Yervoy) and pembrolizumab (Keytruda), they’re not very responsive in patients with prostate cancer. And it’s because there’s few T cells in prostate cancer. 

What the T-cell bispecifics do is they actually have one part of the drug that actually recognizes the cancer and the other part that recognizes T-cells. So, like a bulldozer, it brings T cells right into the prostate cancer and helps kill the cancer that way.  

Katherine:

Now there are some inhibitors as well. Is that correct? 

Dr. Subudhi:

Yeah. So, the immune checkpoint inhibitors have been around for a while. And, basically, in combination, they seem to be more effective in prostate cancer. But when given alone as monotherapy, they’re less effective. 

Katherine:

Are these treatments specifically for patients with advanced prostate cancer? 

Dr. Subudhi:

All of them are actually in trials in patients with advanced prostate cancer. And I define advanced prostate cancer as either having metastatic disease, meaning the cancer has spread to other parts of the body outside of the prostate. 

Examples include lymph node, the bone, the lung, the liver. But there are so few trials in patients with locally advanced prostate cancer. What I mean by that is they have high-grade prostate cancer, but it’s local, or it’s just in regional lymph nodes. And some of these classes of drugs are being evaluated in that setting as well.  

Katherine:

Let’s shift to talk about your research. What are you excited about right now? 

Dr. Subudhi:

So, my research focuses on immune checkpoint therapies, which are the inhibitors that you were referring to and understanding how to make them work better in prostate cancer. 

And we’re finding out that in prostate cancer there’s about 20 to 25 percent of patients that appear to respond to this type of treatment. But these are patients that don’t have a lot of bone metastases. And these immune checkpoint inhibitors are given in combination. So, they’re not given alone. They’re given with either a combination of anti-CD34 and anti-PD-1 or some other form of that. 

Tools for Accessing Quality Prostate Cancer Care

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Tools for Accessing Quality Prostate Cancer Care from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What factors could impact a prostate cancer patients access to quality, affordable care? This animated video reviews common obstacles and provides tools and resources to help address barriers to care.

Download Resource Guide

See More From Shared Decision Making: Navigating Prostate Cancer Care

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Prostate Cancer Care Partners: Getting the Support You Need

Transcript: 

Anthony: 

Hi! I’m Anthony, and I’m living with advanced prostate cancer. This is Niki, my nurse.  

Just like prostate cancer doesn’t behave the same way in every patient, each prostate cancer patient has different factors that could impact their access to quality, affordable care. 

Niki: 

Exactly, Anthony. There are obstacles that may affect their potential to manage their cancer.    

These barriers, which are also called health disparities1, are complex and may include things like:  

  • Not having health insurance – or having limited insurance. 
  • Experiencing racism and discrimination. 
  • Language barriers if English is not the language you are most comfortable with2. 
  • Cultural barriers. 
  • Experiencing financial constraints. 
  • A lack of sick time or paid time off in the workplace. 
  • Living in a remote or rural area with limited access to care. 
  • Or, a lack of education or health literacy. 

Anthony: 

And overcoming or addressing these barriers is the goal of health equity.  

Niki: 

Right! EVERYONE should have the access to quality care. And while it isn’t possible to solve these problems overnight, there are resources and support services to help people with prostate cancer. It is important to identify and to discuss your barriers with your healthcare team as they are unique to each individual patient. 

Anthony: 

First and foremost, as we’ve mentioned in prior videos – don’t hesitate to speak up if you feel you are receiving unequal care. You can consider changing doctors if you don’t feel you’re receiving fair treatment, or if you’re not comfortable with your team. 

But the burden to access better care shouldn’t fall on you. Your team is there to help, right, Niki? 

Niki: 

That’s what they are there for! And the best place to start is by reaching out to a nurse navigator or social worker on your team. They may work with you and identify any challenges in your way and offer support resources to guide you in the right direction.  

Anthony: 

Exactly – my social worker helped me find an organization that provided transportation to and from my treatment appointments.  

Niki, are there other services that a nurse navigator or social worker help you connect with? 

Niki: 

Absolutely – let’s walk through some examples: 

  • There are resources that can help with the financial strain of cancer care. Patient assistance programs are in place for people who don’t have health insurance or who are underinsured. They are managed by government agencies, pharmaceutical companies, and advocacy groups; and, in some cases, these programs can help cover the cost of medications or provide them at a discounted rate.
  • Team members who provide emotional support are available to help you such as a social worker, counselor, therapist, or psychologist. 
  • If language is a barrier, translators can be made available to join appointments with you, so you can actively participate in your care discussions and decisions.  And you can ask for materials in the language you are most comfortable with. 
  • And if your job is affecting your ability to get care, many advocacy groups have resources that can support you in advocating for your rights in the workplace. 

Anthony: 

Those are all wonderful support services, Niki. 

I also want to add that if you are having trouble understanding your disease, advocacy groups have excellent materials in patient-friendly language. Download the guide that accompanies this video for a list of recommended organizations. 

Niki: 

That’s right. And, many medical centers have patient advocates available to help you communicate with your team, so you can get the care you need and feel confident in your decisions. Remember, you are not alone! 

We hope this video helped you feel more empowered to ask for resources. Thanks for joining us! 

Anthony: 

And visit powerfulpatients.org/pc to access more videos with Niki and me. 

Prostate Cancer Care Partners: Getting the Support You Need

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Prostate Cancer Care Partners: Getting the Support You Need from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What do care partners need to know to help care for their loved one AND themselves? This animated video reviews the role of a care partner, discusses steps for supporting a loved one and provides tips for maintaining self-care.

Download Resource Guide

See More From Shared Decision Making: Navigating Prostate Cancer Care

Related Resources:

Living With Prostate Cancer

Collaborating With Your Doctor on Your Prostate Cancer Care Plan

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Tools for Accessing Quality Prostate Cancer Care

Transcript: 

Anthony: 

Hi! I’m Anthony, and I am living with advanced prostate cancer. This is my nurse, Niki.  

And this is my wife, Jane. She’s not just my wife, she’s also my care partner. From helping with my appointment schedule to communicating with my healthcare team, she works with me to manage my prostate cancer. 

Jane: 

And many of you may be care partners like me. The goal of this video is to help you understand your role and to gain tools to help you support your loved one in their cancer journey. And that includes prioritizing your own self-care.  

Niki, we’ve talked about some of the things I do to help Anthony, but how would you describe the role of a care partner?  

Niki: 

A care partner is someone who works with their loved one on their care every step of the way – from diagnosis to survivorship.  

It’s important to mention that anyone can play this role – friend, family member, or loved one – whomever you trust with supporting your health.  

Jane: 

And there isn’t a single way be a care partner. You can provide support in a way that feels comfortable and natural to you. 

Niki, what are some of the ways a care partner can help?   

Niki: 

Yes – let’s review a few steps. Care partners can assist by: 

  • Learning about your loved one’s prostate cancer, so you can feel confident in participating in conversations and decisions. You can ask their healthcare team for educational resources. 
  • And participating in doctors’ appointments by taking notes and requesting post-visit summaries so that you can review the information presented. 
  • Next, helping your loved one access and use their patient portal and maintaining schedules and organizing medical records. 
  • Listening to your loved one and assist in weighing the pros and cons of care decisions. 
  • And monitoring your loved one’s emotional health. 

Jane: 

That’s a great point, Niki. Sometimes a care partner will notice that their loved one is feeling low or acting differently before they notice anything themselves. Care partners can help communicate these issues to the healthcare team, and can even reach out to a mental health professional or social worker to help.  

Niki: 

And that leads me to the next important step that many care partners often overlook: Taking care of yourself.  

Anthony: 

Right – and as we experienced firsthand, this is essential. Jane struggled with making time for herself after I was diagnosed, and it negatively impacted her health.  

Jane: 

I was totally drained. But adding time for myself on the calendar and keeping up with my self-care appointments made me feel better. What else can you do? 

  • First, prioritize your health by scheduling and keeping your OWN health care appointment. 
  • Continue doing the activities that you enjoy – there are ways to make time in the schedule, even if it doesn’t seem like it.   
  • Find and use strategies that work for you to manage stress, like exercise, reading a book, or anything you find relaxing. Even a short walk with a friend can have a big impact. 
  • And make a list of tasks you can pass off to friends and family members who offer to help.  

Niki: 

That’s great advice, Jane. I’ll also add that caring for a loved one can be challenging – it’s normal to feel a range of emotions. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, talking with someone about how you’re feeling can make a difference. And speaking candidly and openly with other care partners in a support group setting can also provide comfort and peace of mind. 

Just like Anthony sought the advice of a counselor and social worker, it’s important that Jane find that support SHE needs as a care partner. 

Jane: 

We hope this video helped you gain tools and strategies for helping support a loved one – and yourself. 

Anthony: 

Download the guide that goes with this video to review what you learned.  

And visit powerfulpatients.org/pc to access more videos with Niki and me. 

Living With Prostate Cancer

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Living With Prostate Cancer from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What follow-up care is important for people with prostate cancer? This animated video discusses support and tools for managing life with prostate cancer.

Download Resource Guide

See More From Shared Decision Making: Navigating Prostate Cancer Care

Related Resources:

What You Should Know About Clinical Trials

What You Should Know About Clinical Trials

Collaborating With Your Doctor on Your Prostate Cancer Care Plan

Collaborating With Your Doctor on Your Prostate Cancer Care Plan

Tools for Accessing Quality Prostate Cancer Care

Transcript: 

Niki: 

Hi! I’m Niki and I’m a nurse practitioner. And here with me is Anthony, who is living with advanced prostate cancer. 

Anthony: 

Thanks for joining us!  

In this video, we’re going to discuss tools for managing life with prostate cancer.  

Niki:  

Living with prostate cancer means that patients will be monitored for signs that the cancer may be progressing, and assess if it is time to treat the cancer or consider a different treatment plan.   

Anthony:  

But for all patients, an important part of living with prostate cancer is follow-up care. This may include:  

  • Disease monitoring and managing symptoms and side effects, 
  • As well as emotional support. 
  • And, in some cases, creating a survivorship plan with your team.  

Niki:  

Let’s start with disease monitoring: This may include regular exams and testing to keep an eye on your disease progression or recovery. And your individual situation and risk will determine the frequency of your appointments. 

Anthony: 

And for patients like me who have had treatment, managing short and long-term side effects is an essential part of living with prostate cancer.  

One issue that can be challenging for some prostate cancer patients is the impact of treatment on a patient’s sexual function and self-image.  

Niki: 

That’s right, Anthony. It’s important to note that there ARE options that may help manage certain side effects, but you have to talk about them with your healthcare team. While bringing up sexual side effects or bladder control issues to your provider may be difficult, it’s the only way your team can assist you.  

Anthony: 

In my case, I found it easier to communicate my sexual issues in writing, using the patient portal. Plus – don’t forget that care partners can be a resource to help bring up difficult topics. 

Niki: 

Exactly – utilize your resources and communicate in a way that you feel most comfortable! 

And, as we mentioned, there can also be emotional side effects for men living with prostate cancer. Patients may feel stressed about their diagnosis or anxious about their cancer returning or progressing. Working with a health professional like a social worker, counselor, therapist, or psychologist may help reduce anxiety and worry.  

Anthony: 

Right – the other approach that really helped me emotionally was participating in a support group. 

Support groups allow men to meet and interact with others who are living with prostate cancer and provide a platform to share experiences and information. In a support group setting, it may be easier for men to share details that they don’t necessarily want to share with loved ones.  

Niki: 

That’s a great point, Anthony. Studies show that participating in a support group can help cancer patients cope with anxiety and depression 

Anthony: 

It certainly encourages me to know that other men are facing similar challenges. While my support group meets in person, there are online options for people who prefer to connect in a virtual setting.   

Niki: 

But as much as it can be reassuring, the support group format isn’t for everyone. Talk to your social worker or counselor about additional support options to find an approach that feels most comfortable to you.  

Anthony: 

Now that we’ve walked through disease monitoring and resources for emotional support, let’s talk about survivorship. Niki, what is a survivorship care plan?  

Niki: 

Sure. A survivorship care plan organizes your follow-up care. It may include: 

  • Information about the treatment you received. 
  • A follow-up schedule for exams and tests. 
  • A list of potential symptoms and side effects. 
  • And lifestyle recommendations to establish and to maintain healthy habits.  

Your healthcare team, along with a care partner, can help you develop and stick to a plan. 

Anthony: 

That’s great advice, Niki. Now that we have learned some tips for living with prostate cancer, what can you do to participate in your follow-up care?  

Niki: 

  • Make sure to schedule and keep regular visits with your team – including your general practitioner – so that all aspects of your health can be monitored.  
  • Report any new symptoms that you experience – no matter how small. 
  • Next, don’t hesitate to speak up about lingering side effects – including bladder and sexual side effects – so your team can identify solutions. 
  • And ask for emotional support and resources. 
  • Finally, if it’s right for you, talk with your doctor about a survivorship care plan. 

Anthony: 

Thanks for joining us! Be sure to download the guide that goes with this video to access the information we discussed.  

And visit powerfulpatients.org/pc to access more videos with Niki and me. 

What You Should Know About Clinical Trials

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What You Should Know About Clinical Trials from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What do you need to know about prostate cancer clinical trials? This animated video reviews the clinical trial process and provides questions to ask your healthcare team about trial participation.

Download Resource Guide

See More From Shared Decision Making: Navigating Prostate Cancer Care

Related Resources:

Collaborating With Your Doctor on Your Prostate Cancer Care Plan

Collaborating With Your Doctor on Your Prostate Cancer Care Plan

Tools for Accessing Quality Prostate Cancer Care

Prostate Cancer Care Partners: Getting the Support You Need

Prostate Cancer Care Partners: Getting the Support You Need

Transcript: 

Anthony: 

Hi, I’m Anthony, and I’m living with advanced prostate cancer. And this is my nurse practitioner, Niki.  

Niki: 

Thanks for joining us! 

Without medical research, advances in prostate cancer treatment can’t move forward. Throughout this video, Anthony and I are going to discuss a key part of research: clinical trials. We’ll review what they are and how they work.  

Anthony: 

Niki, what is a clinical trial exactly? 

Niki: 

Excellent question, Anthony. Clinical trials are research studies in people who have a specific condition, or are healthy volunteers, to help find new ways to treat diseases – like prostate cancer.  

Most clinical trials examine the safety and efficacy of medicines, vaccines, and other medical treatments. 

And clinical trials are the main path for cancer treatments to be approved. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration – also known as the FDA – requires that all new medicines and treatments go through the clinical trial process before they are approved. 

So, why would someone consider participating in a trial? Some people choose to participate to access a potential new medicine or treatment that’s not yet approved to see if it helps their condition. And some people want to help move research forward to help others with the same condition – while other people participate for both reasons. 

Anthony: 

That’s right – advancing research through participation is an important path to new options for treating prostate cancer.   

So, Niki – can you explain how clinical trials are designed to answer key questions? 

Niki: 

Yes, of course. Most importantly, each clinical trial has a protocol, which is a document that sets guidelines that define and outline the activities of the clinical trial as well as who may be eligible to participate. 

The early phase trials determine the safety of the treatment, and the latter phases typically examine if the potential therapy is effective. 

All along the way, the study clinic staff  – including nurses, researchers, and study doctors  –check clinical trial participants regularly to monitor for any safety concerns.  

Anthony: 

But to be successful, clinical trials require people to volunteer. And people interested in participating will have to meet the trial criteria to participate, correct? 

Niki: 

Yes, that’s correct, and this can include things like a person’s age, disease stage, prior treatments, and overall health. Remember that everyone’s situation is unique. 

Anthony: 

And people often have misconceptions about clinical trials that prevent them from considering participation. Let’s run through a few common concerns. 

For instance, some people worry that they will receive placebowhich is a non-active medicine  –  if they participate in a clinical trial. Niki, is this true? 

Niki:  

A cancer patient would never receive only the placebo without the current standard-of-care and will always be told that the trial will contain a placebo in advance of their participation. 

Anthony: 

OK, that makes sense. Some people also wonder about the risks and safety of a clinical trial.  Niki, can you share some information about this?  

Niki:  

Great question. Most importantly, research must meet ethical standards to ensure that participants are protected. There is a strict screening and testing process that occurs before a person can participate.  

And, clinical trials are voluntary  – participants have the right to leave the trial at any time.  

Additionally, there is an informed consent process, which ensures that people are fully informed about all potential risks and benefits and helps people understand their rights before taking part.  

Anthony: 

Ok. Thank you for clearing that up. Niki, what about the misconception that clinical trials are just a last-resort treatment option?  

Niki: 

They are not just a last-resort option at all, Anthony. No matter when a patient was diagnosed with prostate cancer, or where they are in their care, clinical trial participation may be an option.  

Anthony: 

So, if someone is interested in participating in a clinical trial or learning more about clinical research – where do they start?  

Niki:  

Your doctor is the best source of information. You can ask your doctor: 

  • What trials are available to me? 
  • Is there a clinical trial that you would recommend for me? Why? 
  • What are the possible risks and advantages of participating in this clinical trial? 
  • Are there costs associated with the trial, and will my health insurance help cover costs? And if not, is there financial assistance available?  
  • Where is the trial being conducted? Is there a clinical trial available to me in my local community? If the trial isn’t nearby or convenient, is there transportation and/or housing assistance? 
  • Finally, if you want to learn more about ongoing prostate cancer research and clinical trials, ask your doctor for a list of credible resources. 

Anthony:  

Be sure to download the guide that accompanies this video to access a list of these questions and to help you review what you learned. 

Niki: 

Thanks for joining us! And visit powerfulpatients.org/pc to access more videos with Anthony and me. 

Collaborating With Your Doctor on Your Prostate Cancer Care Plan

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Collaborating With Your Doctor on Your Prostate Cancer Care Plan from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

How can you engage in your prostate cancer care? In this animated video, you will learn about factors that may impact a prostate cancer care plan and tools for partnering with your healthcare team on treatment decisions.

Download Resource Guide

See More From Shared Decision Making: Navigating Prostate Cancer Care

Related Resources:

What You Should Know About Clinical Trials

What You Should Know About Clinical Trials

Living With Prostate Cancer

Prostate Cancer Care Partners: Getting the Support You Need

Prostate Cancer Care Partners: Getting the Support You Need

Transcript: 

Niki: 

Hi, thanks for joining us! I’m Niki, and I’m a prostate cancer nurse practitioner. And here with me is Anthony, who is living with advanced prostate cancer.   

Anthony: 

Throughout this video, Niki and I are going to discuss factors that may impact a patient’s prostate cancer care plan.  

And as we’ve mentioned in previous videos, it’s important to set goals with your team and understand all of your options before deciding on an approach.  

Niki: 

Right, Anthony. So, what could impact a treatment plan decision? Factors may include: 

  • Your age and overall health, including any existing conditions that you may have.
  • Disease-related symptoms may also affect your options.
  • The stage and grade of your prostate cancer and whether you need to be treated right away.
  • Test results, including genomic testing, which identifies the presence of genetic mutations in the cancer and may inform how your cancer will behave. 
  • Possible side effects, both short term and long term, may also affect your choices. 

Anthony: 

And, of course, your personal preference should guide the decision as well as how the option may impact your lifestyle. Be open with your care team about what’s important to you and be clear with your goals, including life plans and personal commitments.   

Here are some tips to take a more proactive role in your care: 

  • Talk with close family members and friends about your options. 
  • Consider a second opinion to help confirm your approach. 
  • Talk to your healthcare team about your condition and care options. And ask them for resources available to you, including financial help and emotional support, when making decisions.​ 
  • You can also visit advocacy group websites that have information about prostate cancer, treatment options, and support groups, to help you understand what’s available.​ 

Niki: 

Those are great tips! It’s also a good idea to ask your doctor what they feel is the best approach for you and why. Remember, there is no one-size-fits all approach, and what works for one person may not work for you. 

Anthony: 

Thanks for joining us! Be sure to download the guide that accompanies this video to help you review what you learned.  

And visit powerfulpatients.org/pc to access more videos with Niki and me. 

Clinical Trials as a Prostate Cancer Treatment Option | What You Should Know

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Clinical Trials as a Prostate Cancer Treatment Option | What You Should Know from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Should you consider participating in a prostate cancer clinical trial? Dr. Sumit Subudhi explains the clinical trial process, addresses common trial patient concerns, and provides key advice for trial participation. Dr. Subudhi also shares an update on promising prostate cancer research.

Dr. Sumit Subudhi is an Associate Professor in the Department of Genitourinary Medical Oncology, Division of Cancer Medicine at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

See More From Prostate Clinical Trials 201

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What Questions Should Prostate Cancer Patients Ask About Clinical Trials

What Questions Should Prostate Cancer Patients Ask About Clinical Trails?

Tools for Partnering in Your Prostate Cancer Care

Tools for Partnering in Your Prostate Cancer Care

Tools for Choosing the Right Prostate Cancer Treatment Approach

Tools for Choosing the Right Prostate Cancer Treatment Approach


Transcript:

Katherine Banwell:

Hello and welcome. I’m Katherine Banwell, your host for today’s program. Today we’re going to discuss prostate cancer research advances and the role of clinical trials and moving treatment developments forward. Before we meet our guest, let’s review a few important details.   

The reminder email you received about this program contains a link to a program resource guide. 

If you haven’t already, click that link to access information to follow along during the webinar. At the end of this program, you will receive a link to a program survey. This will allow you to provide feedback about your experience today, and it will help us plan future webinars. 

Finally, before we get into the discussion, please remember that this program is not a substitute for seeking medical advice. Please refer to your healthcare team about what might be best for you. 

Well, let’s meet our guest today. Joining me is Dr. Sumit Subudhi. Dr. Subudhi, thanks for being with us. Would you introduce yourself? 

Dr. Subudhi:

Hi. I’m Sumit Subudhi. I’m an associate professor in the GU Medical Oncology department at MD Anderson Cancer Center. And I exclusively treat patients with advanced prostate cancer. And I’ve been doing it for about a decade. 

Katherine:

Thank you. I’d like to begin with an update on prostate cancer research. Would you walk us through the newer classes of treatments that are showing promise? 

Dr. Subudhi:

Yeah, in clinical trials, there are classes of drugs known as androgen receptor degraders. And so, the androgen receptor is a protein that basically is the mouth of the prostate cancer. That’s how I like to describe it. And it actually allows testosterone, which is the food, to be eaten by the mouth, and it actually helps the cancer grow. 

And what these drugs do is they actually degrade or break down the mouth of the cancer. And, therefore, it starves the cancer to death, and that’s actually the concept. And they seem to be showing some exciting activity in clinical trials, especially in those patients who are resistant to the second-generation hormonal drug that you may have heard of already, such as enzalutamide (Xtandi), apalutamide (Erleada), and darolutamide (Nubeqa). So, I think is something that we’re looking forward to seeing more data on. 

Another class of drugs are antibody drug conjugates or ADCs.  

And these are what I think of as heat-seeking missiles. So, one part of the drug actually recognizes the cancer, and the other part of the drug actually has a payload that sort of releases a bomb or sort of like chemotherapy-type agent right where the cancer’s located and kills the cancer in that way. And we’re seeing some great clinical activity in prostate cancer with this class of drugs. 

And then the final one is bispecifics, and in particular T-cell bispecifics. So, T cells are part of the immune system that actually help kill the cancer.  

And, unfortunately, prostate cancer, like some other cancers like pancreatic and glioblastoma, have few T cells inside it. And, therefore, a lot of the immunotherapies that many people have heard about, such as ipilimumab (Yervoy) and pembrolizumab (Keytruda), they’re not very responsive in patients with prostate cancer. And it’s because there’s few T cells in prostate cancer.  

What the T-cell bispecifics do is they actually have one part of the drug that actually recognizes the cancer and the other part that recognizes T cells. So, like a bulldozer, it brings T cells right into the prostate cancer and helps kill the cancer that way.  

Katherine:

Now there are some inhibitors as well. Is that correct? 

Dr. Subudhi:

Yeah. So, the immune checkpoint inhibitors have been around for a while. And, basically, in combination, they seem to be more effective in prostate cancer. But when given alone as monotherapy, they’re less effective. 

Katherine:

Are these treatments specifically for patients with advanced prostate cancer? 

Dr. Subudhi:

All of them are actually in trials in patients with advanced prostate cancer. And I define advanced prostate cancer as either having metastatic disease, meaning the cancer has spread to other parts of the body outside of the prostate.  

Examples include lymph node, the bone, the lung, the liver. But there are so few trials in patients with locally advanced prostate cancer. What I mean by that is they have high-grade prostate cancer, but it’s local, or it’s just in regional lymph nodes. And some of these classes of drugs are being evaluated in that setting as well. 

Katherine:

Let’s shift to talk about your research. What are you excited about right now? 

Dr. Subudhi:

So, my research focuses on immune checkpoint therapies, which are the inhibitors that you were referring to and understanding how to make them work better in prostate cancer. 

And we’re finding out that in prostate cancer there’s about 20 to 25 percent of patients that appear to respond to this type of treatment. But these are patients that don’t have a lot of bone metastases. And these immune checkpoint inhibitors are given in combination. So, they’re not given alone. They’re given with either a combination of anti-CD34 and anti-PD-1 or some other form of that. 

Katherine:

Prostate cancer research really can only move forward through clinical trials and patient participation in those trials. Can you briefly explain what a trial is for people who may not be familiar with the term? 

Dr. Subudhi:

That’s a great question. My own father has prostate cancer. And he had the same exact question when he started his journey in that. 

And so, what I explained to him is that clinical trials are experiments. They’re experiments that are done in our patients.  

So, they’re drugs that are thought to mechanistically kill the cancer cell or at least change the environment around the cancer cell to help people live longer. But these drugs were actually tested in mouse models or in tissue models. And we don’t know if they actually work in patients. 

And so, in clinical trials, we’re actually testing whether these drugs are safe and whether they’re efficacious or beneficial to our patients. So, I want to be very clear. When patients go on clinical trials, we don’t know if it’s going to work on them. And that’s something that they should know that they’re showing a lot of courage and risk in joining these trials.  

But the other point I want to make is that every standard of care drug that is out there actually went through the clinical trial process, and they were approved because they showed benefit in a group of patients. 

Katherine:

Well, how can a prostate cancer patient benefit from participating in a trial? 

Dr. Subudhi:

One of the key benefits is that you get access to drugs that may actually prolong your life or even cure you and that you wouldn’t have access to in trials.  

And so, some of my patients, unfortunately, they’ve exhausted all the standard of care choices that are out there. And the trial’s the only option left versus leaving it up to natural causes of demise from prostate cancer. And so, clinical trials give other opportunities to potentially live longer and have a great quality of life. 

Katherine:

So, they could offer some hope. 

Dr. Subudhi:

Definitely. As far as I’m concerned, yes. And, actually, with my patients, I try to not wait while they’ve exhausted all the treatments to start them on clinical trials, because I feel like we may be able to save some of these treatments in our back pocket for when they’re too exhausted to be coming to our clinic so often. And so, I like to actually try to get them enrolled in clinical trials early on in their journey with prostate cancer. 

Katherine:

I’d like to define some clinical trial terminology to help patients further understand the process. Let’s start with the phases. What occurs during each phase?  

Dr. Subudhi:

So, great question. Phase I is the safety phase. So, all we’re trying to do is find the right dose of the drug that is actually safe to give in the patients. And we’re looking for the maximum tolerated dose. And once we find that dose, then we use that dose to go to Phase II of the trial. And Phase II trials are looking at efficacy. So, looking to see whether the trial is giving you any clinical benefit, meaning the cancer’s shrinking or even disappearing. 

Katherine:

Go on.  

Dr. Subudhi:

And then the third phase is Phase III where you’re testing the current drug, experimental drug, to either standard of care or to a placebo to see whether or not you get a benefit, either a progression-free survival benefit or overall survival benefit. And so, those are the three phases of clinical trials.   

Katherine:

What are the different types of clinical trials? 

Dr. Subudhi:

So, they’re controlled trials. Actually, I should back up. So, there’s open-label trials where everyone that enrolls in the trial will get the experimental drug. So, there is no control arms in these trials. Then there is the control trials where you can either get the drug, or you may get a placebo or standard of care drug.  

There are some trials that allow for crossover, meaning that if you’re in the placebo or standard of care arm, if your cancer progresses, you can actually cross over and get the experimental drug. But I just want to be clear that not all clinical trials have crossover. And if you’re in a control trial, I think that’s an important question to ask your doctors about that. 

But the reason why we do the control trials is that we’ve learned that using historical controls – for example, we’re doing a lot of combination studies with chemotherapy, such as docetaxel (Taxotere), which was FDA-approved in 2004. So, if we’re using historical data from almost 20 years ago, it’s not the same thing as our patients that are being treated with docetaxel now, because their treatment landscape has changed so much, and our patients have changed so much. 

And so, for that reason, control trials give us a better sense of how effective this experimental drug is doing as opposed to comparing it to a historical perspective. 

Katherine:

What other types of clinical trials are available? 

Dr. Subudhi:

So, there are a few other options. So, we talked about open-label where everyone’s guaranteed to get the drug. We talked about a controlled study where you will either get one drug or another. And another type is a randomized trial where a computer decides whether or not you’re going to actually get one drug versus another. It’s not your doctor because a lot of people think that I’m making that decision, and I’m not. It’s actually a random computer. 

And some trials have 1:1 ratio, meaning a 50 percent chance that you’ll get the experimental drug versus the control drug. But other trials have 1:2 ratio or 1:3 ratio. So, that’s something that, again, you have to ask your physician of how these trials are being randomized. 

Katherine:

Well, in a randomized clinical trial, the patient isn’t going to know what drug they’re being given. 

Dr. Subudhi:

Actually, that’s not true. 

Katherine:

Oh, it’s not. 

Dr. Subudhi:

So, you bring up a great question. So, there’s a double-blind randomized clinical trial where not only the patient doesn’t know, but even the physicians and the nurses. No one except for the pharmaceutical company that’s running the trial actually knows who’s actually getting which drug. And it’s only towards the end of the trial that we unblind, and then we share that information. Well, the pharmaceutical company first shares it with the medical team who then shares it with the patient. 

Katherine:

I see. Are there other common clinical trial terms that you think patients should know about and understand? 

Dr. Subudhi:

I think for now those are… 

Katherine:

…they’re the most important?  

Dr. Subudhi:

I think to me those are the most important. And I think that sometimes too much information can bog us down.  

Katherine:

Well, speaking of information, there is a lot out there, some of which may not be very reliable. And that could lead many patients to having misconceptions about clinical trials. Let’s walk through a few common concerns we’ve heard from our community about trials. 

One frequent question is – will I receive a placebo instead of a real treatment? And, first, I’d like you to define placebo. And should this be a concern for patients? 

Dr. Subudhi:

Right. So, placebo is a drug that looks similar to the experimental drug. For example, if the experimental drug is a blue pill, then the placebo will be a blue pill. But it will be a pill that should have no known biological activity.  

If the experimental drug is given intravenously and you get it in a liquid bag, then the placebo will also come in a liquid bag. So, it will look the same. And that’s why both the medical team as well as the patients or their families will not know which drug the patients have received, meaning the experimental drug or the placebo. But the placebos are meant to not have any biological activity. 

Katherine:

So, it shouldn’t be a concern to patients then.   

Dr. Subudhi:

Well, the concern that most of my patients share with me when they hear about placebo-controlled trials is, “Well, if I’m not going to get the experimental drug, why should I do this? I mean what benefit does it have for me?” And so, I tell them that one of the benefits is that we are watching you very carefully. 

Because we don’t know sometimes which drug you’re getting. But in some control trials, like a randomized control trial, we will know because I’m not blinded.  

If you’re in the arm that’s only getting chemotherapy, well, you know you’re not getting an oral pill. So, it’s very clear to the patient what they’re getting. But if they’re getting an oral pill that’s a placebo, we’re watching them very carefully.  

So, we’re watching the patients very carefully in these placebo-controlled trials. And they’re coming in often so that we’re not going to miss any devastating things happening from the cancer. In fact, we’ll pick it up earlier than if they were just getting a standard of care outside of a trial. And for that reason I tell that my patients, “Don’t be worried.” And I always make sure that I have a backup plan. 

So, the backup plan is either they’re going to cross over, meaning the trial allows for them to cross over to get the experimental drug. Or I have another trial that I know that they will qualify for. Or the third alternative is that I actually have a standard of care drug that I’m ready to give them the second I have it so that they don’t have to have those concerns. 

Katherine:

That’s really great information to have. Patients also often have questions about safety. So, what are the risks of clinical trial participation? 

Dr. Subudhi:

So, safety is a major issue, especially more into the Phase I. The Phase I trial, if you remember, are the trials where we’re dose escalating, meaning we start off with a small cohort of patients, maybe three to five patients. And we give one dose of the drug. We see if it’s safe. If it’s safe, then we go to the next dosing level. And we just keep going until we find a dose that may be too toxic or too unsafe for our patient. 

So, in the Phase I, we have less information, especially in the first-in-human drugs. But in those cases, we are watching you carefully to make sure that nothing bad happens to you. 

But the problem with those trials is it requires a lot of time at the institution or with your doctor. For example, I’m doing a bispecific trial where we have to keep the patients inside the hospital for eight days, purely for safety reasons. They’re not getting the drug for all eight days. But we’re just keeping them under observation so in case anything bad happens we’re ready to react because we know that if something bad happens at their home in that first eight days, it could actually risk their lives. 

So, in those cases, some trials, if we’re concerned about safety, you’ll be spending more time in the doctor’s office or in a hospital being evaluated. So, that’s the one negative. But sometimes, the trials that can be more exhausting as far as the amount of time it takes you away from your home and family are the ones that have the most reward. 

Katherine:

Well, what protocols are in place to protect patients? 

Dr. Subudhi:

So, when they sign up for a protocol, we are instructed to give them our best information. So, let’s say it’s a first-in-human drug. Well, usually, first-in-human drugs are tested in other mammals, such as monkeys, and we look for toxicities there. And we have signs of what’s going to happen. Sometimes, a first-in-human drug is part of a class of drugs, like I talked to you about T-cell bispecifics. 

Well, there’s several T-cell bispecifics out there. And we’ve learned that this class of drugs has a unique set of side effects that they all tend to have. Some have it more, and some have it less. 

But when we’re discussing this with you or the patient, we are actually going to go through each and all of these side effects. Now, me personally, my patients that go on my trials, they all get my cellphone number so they have 24/7 access to me because I know they’re taking a risk. And it’s a lot of courage to go on these trials. And it’s scary. And I want to make sure they don’t feel like they’re ever alone. 

Katherine:

Another common concern we hear is that a clinical trial is only considered when there are no other treatment options available for a patient. What are your thoughts on this? 

Dr. Subudhi:

There’s a lot of my colleagues in the field that feel that way. And I know a lot of patients’ misconceptions are also that way. And that’s partly because of Hollywood and movies and TV shows that we watch. But I think that many people, especially in the medical field, think of clinical trials as the last resort. 

And I actually disagree with that. I think that I like to actually start my patients with one or two standard of care treatments. But after that, really start putting clinical trials in between. And we have to remember that there’s not always a clinical trial available that the patient actually meets the criteria for.  

So, it’s always disheartening in clinic when I meet someone for the very first time who was referred to me because they exhausted everything. And we just don’t have any clinical trials available, or they’re so weak from the cancer and all the prior treatments that they don’t qualify for a clinical trial. And then I really don’t have anything else to give them.  

So, my personal approach is to try to put clinical trials in between and always have something in my back pocket so that if they get a bit exhausted or they want to spend more time with friends and family, they can get the standard of care treatment. 

Katherine:

If a patient is interested in participating in a trial, what’s the best way to find out which trials might be available for them and right for them? 

Dr. Subudhi:

So, that’s a great question. I think number one is always ask your oncologist, and they’re a great resource. But also, there’s websites. So, for different types of cancer – so, example, I do prostate cancer. So, the Prostate Cancer Foundation or PCF.org is a wonderful resource that will give you a list of cutting-edge trials. 

In addition, the government has clinicaltrials.gov. And that’s where you can actually type in your cancer type and different criteria, and you’ll get a list of trials. 

Katherine:

That’s good to know. What questions should patients ask their healthcare team when considering joining a trial? 

Dr. Subudhi:

I would ask them, “Would you do it yourself if you were in my situation?”  

Katherine:

Very good. 

Dr. Subudhi:

I think that’s a very important thing to ask.  

Katherine:

Are there barriers that interfere with patients’ access to clinical trials? I think you touched on this but maybe if you have anything to add.

Dr. Subudhi:

Yeah. So, travel can be a major barrier. And that’s something that the pharmaceutical industry understands. And, therefore, some of the trials, especially the multicenter trials, actually allow for travel cost. That sometimes includes flights, driving, hotels, food.  

So, that’s something that’s important to ask because sometimes when we’re thinking about clinical trials, we’re so anxious in the doctor’s office. And then it’s not until we go back home when we’re trying to figure out how do we get the resources to come so frequently. You’ll find out that’s sometimes travel costs. 

The other thing is underrepresented minorities are something that we’ve been doing a relatively poor job recruiting to our clinical trials. Part of that is just from history that we didn’t have the safety rules in place that we do now. And underrepresented minorities were affected negatively in some of the earlier trials.  

And the other thing is just the resources of getting to and from their homes to our cancer site as often as they need to because they may be the sole breadwinner in their homes and things like that. So, there are resources to try to help do this. But I still think we have to do a better job. 

Katherine:

Can trials be coordinated between a local doc and the institution? 

Dr. Subudhi:

So, most trials cannot. Most. But there are some that can. So, if it’s a standard of care treatment, sometimes we can have the safety visits done with the local doctors. But every time they’re going to get the treatment they have to come see us at the institution that is actually running the trial.   

But most of the time, what I tell all my patients is, “I want them to have a local doctor.” Because if there’s something that happens in the middle of the night, I want to be able to say, “You’re going to go to this emergency room where this doctor works.” And then when they go there, as soon as they get admitted into the emergency room center, I talk to the ER doctor, and I say, “This is what I want to be done. These are how these drugs work.” 

Because they’re not going to know what these experimental drugs are. They’re not available in the community. So, I just think it’s important to have communication, especially for our patients that are out of state. MD Anderson is in Houston, Texas. And Texas is so big that a lot of my patients live six to eight hours away, and they’re still in Texas. 

Katherine:

Oh, wow. So, what are your thoughts on what could be done to overcome the barriers that some patients are experiencing? And are there resources available?  

Dr. Subudhi:

So, the pharmaceutical companies are putting in more financial resources as well as a diversity resource. And when I say diversity resources, those outreach programs just to make sure that the communities that are underserved are hearing about the clinical trials because if you don’t hear about it you’re never going to join it. So, one thing is just knowledge. 

And then, number two, we’re trying to create financial resources. For example, there’s Angel Flight as one example where they will pay for the flight for you. And they’ll put you on maybe a chartered plane or something or a smaller plane to defray the cost of traveling by air. So, there are things out there, but we still need a lot more. 

Katherine:

But one thing patients could do is talk to their healthcare team about what resources are available for them.  

Dr. Subudhi:

Absolutely. Absolutely. 

Katherine:

Before we end the program, Dr. Subudhi, I’d like to get your final thoughts. What message do you want to leave the audience with related to clinical trial participation? 

Dr. Subudhi:

First of all, thank you for even thinking about it. That’s the one big step. And for those of you who actually take the next step and actually join a clinical trial, again, thank you for being so brave. 

I think it’s a gift that you’re giving to other fellow patients with cancer. And it’s also a gift that you’re giving to the scientific and medical community, because we are learning by your participation in the trial. And I want you to know whether the trial worked for you or does not work for you, regardless, we’re going to learn something that’s going to help change outcomes in your cancer. 

Katherine:

Dr. Subudhi, thank you so much for taking the time to join us today. 

Dr. Subudhi:

Well, thank you. I really appreciate it.  

Katherine:

And thank you to all of our partners. If you would like to watch this webinar again, there will be a replay available soon. You’ll receive an email when it’s ready. 

And don’t forget to take the survey immediately following this webinar. It will help us as we plan programs in the future. To learn more about prostate cancer and to access tools to help you become a proactive patient, visit powerfulpatients.org. I’m Katherine Banwell. Thank you for being with us. 

An Expert Overview of Emerging Prostate Cancer Treatments

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An Expert Overview of Emerging Prostate Cancer Treatments from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What’s the latest in prostate cancer research? Expert Dr. Tanya Dorff shares an overview of emerging prostate cancer therapies and discusses her own research at City of Hope.

Dr. Tanya Dorff is Associate Professor in the Department of Medical Oncology & Therapeutics Research at City of Hope. Learn more about Dr. Dorff.

 

Related Resources:

Prostate Cancer Research Highlights From ASCO 2022

Thriving With Prostate Cancer: What You Should Know About Care and Treatment

What Questions Should Prostate Cancer Patients Ask About Clinical Trials


Transcript:

Katherine:

Dr. Dorff, are there emerging therapies that are showing promise? 

Dr. Dorff:

There are a lot of emerging therapies. People all over the country and all over the world are working to find new and better ways to treat prostate cancer. So, the breakthrough radiopharmaceutical last year of the Leutetium-177-PSMA is the first, but not the last, I believe, in that field. There are other antigens we can target rather than PSMA, there are other particles we can use rather then Lutetium-177, and so, there are currently clinical trials looking at different constructs.  

Take a winning strategy, and then tweak it a little bit to see if you can make it even better, right? Similarly, the PARP inhibitors, which are FDA-approved for prostate cancer, are being studied in different types of clinical trials to try to expand the number of patients who can benefit from them and amplify the benefit – so, moving them earlier, increasing the types of patients who are appropriate. 

And there are additional targeted therapies, like the PI3-kinase AKT inhibitors, the CDK-46 inhibitors, that are being looked at in combination with our standard hormonal drugs that I think could end up being big advances depending how the results play out. There’s a novel class of drugs, the antigen receptor degraders, which also look tremendously promising in clinical trials and are in Phase III testing in some cases, and then, some additional ones are a little earlier in testing. 

And then, there’s immunotherapy, which is at the heart of my research at City of Hope. Immunotherapy offers the promise of using your own immune system to control the cancer or eradicate the cancer, so we’re looking at different strategies, from oncolytic viruses, to bi-specific T-cell-engaging antibodies, to CAR-T cell therapies in hopes that we will find something that can really induce a big, deep, durable, long-lasting remission for patients. 

What Are Advanced Prostate Cancer Treatment Options?

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What Are Advanced Prostate Cancer Treatment Options? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What is advanced prostate cancer and how is it treated? Expert Dr. Tanya Dorff explains advanced prostate cancer and discusses available treatment approaches, including clinical trial considerations.

Dr. Tanya Dorff is Associate Professor in the Department of Medical Oncology & Therapeutics Research at City of Hope. Learn more about Dr. Dorff.

 

Related Resources:

What Is Advanced Prostate Cancer?

What Questions Should Prostate Cancer Patients Ask About Clinical Trials


Transcript:

Katherine:

First, what does it mean to have advanced disease? 

Dr. Dorff:

Advanced prostate cancer signals cancer that’s come back after curative intention or has presented de novo in a way that means we don’t currently have a tool to cure it. That’s at least how I view advanced prostate cancer. You could take a broader definition and consider some high-risk localized patients who need multimodal therapy, but to me, it’s really signaling a shift from something we’re aiming to cure versus something we’re aiming to manage, so that can manifest just as a PSA that’s rising, what we call biochemical recurrence, or it can manifest as visible metastatic disease. 

Katherine:

What does “locally advanced mean? 

Dr. Dorff:

So, “locally advanced” means that it hasn’t metastasized, but it might be involving the local structures, like the seminal vesicles or the bladder or some of the regional lymph nodes, the pelvic lymph nodes. 

Katherine:

How is advanced prostate cancer treated? 

Dr. Dorff:

The cornerstone of treatment for advanced prostate cancer has really been hormone therapy. I think there’s a lot of negative stuff out there on the internet about hormone therapy that I think does a disservice to patients because hormone therapy is truly very, very effective and, for many men, can be quite livable. 

I have patients who live more than a decade on hormone therapy, and they’re running their businesses and they’re raising their grandkids, they’re traveling, they’re running 10Ks, they’re doing all the things that they might want to be doing. That’s not to say there aren’t side effects, but hormone therapy is an effective cornerstone, and I really hope people won’t dismiss it offhand because of the negative things they’ve heard or read about it. 

Katherine:

What about other treatment classes?  

Dr. Dorff:

Most of our other treatments are really layered on top of hormone therapy. We may get to a point – 10 years from now, I don’t know, sometime in the future – when we don’t start with the hormone therapy, so a lot of patients come in asking about the new radiopharmaceutical, the Lutetium-177-PSMA that got approved last year, or about whether chemotherapy can be used. They can be, but they’re really layered on top of hormone therapy, so the hormone therapy is the first treatment, it’s the most effective right now, and then it’s continued as we swap out – we add a novel hormonal agent like abiraterone (Zytiga), or enzalutamide (Xtandi), or one of the others. 

When that is no longer effective, we swap that out, we might use chemotherapy or the radiopharmaceutical. There’s also an immunotherapy that’s been around for more than a decade called sipuleucel-T, and now there’s the targeted therapies – the PARP inhibitors – as well for select patients. 

Katherine:

Where do clinical trials fit into treatment?  

Dr. Dorff:

That’s a great question. I’m so glad you asked. Clinical trials some people mistakenly believe are your last choice, like you’ve gone through every single treatment we have, and then you go to a clinical trial. That’s not the case. Some of the biggest advances in prostate cancer have been when we’ve taken drugs that work in a more advanced resistance setting, like a second- or third-line, and when we move them right up front, first-line, we dramatically amplify their benefit. We dramatically improve survival. 

So, if we don’t think about a clinical trial in the first line, we’re going to miss the opportunity to not only develop those new treatment paradigms, but actually participate in them ahead of when they become the new standard of care down the road. 

Another misconception that people have often about clinical trials is that they are always randomized, there’s always a flipping of the coin in assignment of different treatments, and that they may include a placebo. So, most of our clinical trials at this point do not include placebo. Because we have so many effective treatment options, we’re more and more frequently comparing either two drugs against one, so everyone’s getting at least one effective drug, or we’re not comparing at all, but everyone’s getting some new treatment or some combination of treatments when we’re working out dosing in that scenario, like a Phase II. 

So, clinical trials are really an option at any stage of prostate cancer, even at diagnosis for localized disease all the way through, and truly, I hope people would consider looking at those as options because that’s where some of the most innovative treatment options are going to become available to them. 

Thriving With Prostate Cancer | Tools for Navigating Care and Treatment

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Thriving With Prostate Cancer | Tools for Navigating Care and Treatment from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

How can you thrive with prostate cancer? Dr. Tanya Dorff discusses prostate cancer treatment and developing research, side effect and symptom management, and shares advice and resources for coping with emotional issues.

Dr. Tanya Dorff is Associate Professor in the Department of Medical Oncology & Therapeutics Research at City of Hope. Learn more about Dr. Dorff here.

See More from Thrive Prostate Cancer

Download Resource Guide

Related Resources:

Tools for Partnering in Your Prostate Cancer Care

Tools for Partnering in Your Prostate Cancer Care 

Understanding Advanced Prostate Cancer Treatment Approaches

Understanding Advanced Prostate Cancer Treatment Approaches 

What Is Advanced Prostate Cancer?

What Is Advanced Prostate Cancer? 

Transcript:

Katherine:

Hello and welcome. I’m Katherine Banwell, your host for today’s program. Today’s webinar is part of our Thrive series, and we’re going to discuss tools to help you navigate life with prostate cancer. Before we meet our guest, let’s review a few important details. The reminder email you’ve received about this program contains a link to a program resource guide. If you haven’t already, click that link to access information to follow along during the webinar.

At the end of this program, you’ll receive a link to a survey. Please take a moment to provide feedback about your experience today in order to help us plan future webinars. And finally, before we get into the discussion, please remember that this program is not a substitute for seeking medical advice. Please refer to your healthcare team about what might be best for you.

Well, let’s meet our guest today. Joining me is Dr. Tanya Dorff. Dr. Dorff, welcome. Would you please introduce yourself?

Dr. Dorff:

Thank you. Hi, I’m Tanya Dorff. I’m a medical oncologist and section chief of the genitourinary cancer program at City of Hope, which is near Los Angeles, California.

Katherine:

Excellent. Thank you so much for taking the time to join us today.

Dr. Dorff:

My pleasure.

Katherine:

Like all of the webinars in our Thrive series, we start with the same question. In your experience, what do you think it means to thrive with prostate cancer?

Dr. Dorff:

Well, that’s a big question. As a medical oncologist, my job is to try to strike a balance between cancer control and quality of life, and I guess that’s how I would put thriving with prostate cancer. It’s not always just about what is the PSA doing, but it’s also about how are you getting around your day-to-day life activities, and are you able to do the things you enjoy. So, treatments can be very effective. They can also have significant side effects, and we spend a lot of time day in and day out trying to help men strike a good balance.

Katherine:

Thank you for that, Dr. Dorff. Let’s move on to how prostate cancer is treated. This webinar is mainly focused on advanced prostate cancer. But before we get into treatments for more advanced disease, let’s do a quick overview of early-stage prostate cancer options. First, some prostate cancer patients are often put in active surveillance. What does that mean?

Dr. Dorff:

Active surveillance is different than what some people think it is. So, some people think it means we’re not going to treat the cancer, that we’re just going to let it take its natural course. It’s actually quite active, as the name implies. We’re really trying to get to know a person’s cancer and understand whether it is a cancer that will ultimately need to be treated, in which case we will intervene with definitive treatment, whether that be radiation or surgery, but the goal is to find those patients whose cancer is not very aggressive and may never need to be treated so that they can avoid the possible risks that come from definitive local therapy.

Katherine:

So it’s more like a watch-and-wait situation?

Dr. Dorff:

But it’s…I, again, view it as a little bit different than that. Watch and wait is “let’s just let it do what it’s going to do.” Active surveillance is what I call a getting-to-know-you period. Let’s understand whether these clinical features that have signaled that your cancer may be low-risk, may not need treatment – let’s see if that really plays out, let’s make sure we haven’t missed anything, and if your cancer needs treatment, we’re going to treat it.

Katherine:

Okay, that’s good to know, thank you. When it is time to start treatment, what types of approaches are available for early-stage prostate cancer patients?

Dr. Dorff:

Localized prostate cancer or early-stage prostate cancer can be cured with either surgery or radiation, and we actually view these to be equally effective options. Sometimes people have the misconception that if they’re getting radiation to treat their localized prostate cancer, they’re being relegated to a noncurative or a less effective option. It’s actually not the case. We don’t have truly good, randomized, head-to-head studies.

You can find retrospective studies, people looking back at 2,000 patients treated at this institution or that institution, and you can find a study that pretty much says whatever you want it to. You can find some that say surgery’s better, some that say radiation’s better, but in sum, we sort of view them as being equally effective options. And so, they just have different side effect profiles, and so, we often counsel patients who are considering which local treatment to receive to look at what their current urinary function is, what their goals are for their long-term function, both urinary and sexual, and use that as a guide, as well as their age, their other health conditions, and those kinds of factors. 

Katherine:

Let’s turn now to how advanced prostate cancer is treated. First, what does it mean to have advanced disease?

Dr. Dorff:

Advanced prostate cancer signals cancer that’s come back after curative intention or has presented de novo in a way that means we don’t currently have a tool to cure it. That’s at least how I view advanced prostate cancer. You could take a broader definition and consider some high-risk localized patients who need multimodal therapy, but to me, it’s really signaling a shift from something we’re aiming to cure versus something we’re aiming to manage, so that can manifest just as a PSA that’s rising, what we call biochemical recurrence, or it can manifest as visible metastatic disease.

Katherine:

What does “locally advanced” mean?

Dr. Dorff:

So, “locally advanced” means that it hasn’t metastasized, but it might be involving the local structures, like the seminal vesicles or the bladder or some of the regional lymph nodes, the pelvic lymph nodes.

Katherine:

How is advanced prostate cancer treated?

Dr. Dorff:

The cornerstone of treatment for advanced prostate cancer has really been hormone therapy. I think there’s a lot of negative stuff out there on the internet about hormone therapy that I think does a disservice to patients because hormone therapy is truly very, very effective and, for many men, can be quite livable.

I have patients who live more than a decade on hormone therapy, and they’re running their businesses and they’re raising their grandkids, they’re traveling, they’re running 10Ks, they’re doing all the things that they might want to be doing. That’s not to say there aren’t side effects, but hormone therapy is an effective cornerstone, and I really hope people won’t dismiss it offhand because of the negative things they’ve heard or read about it.

Katherine:

What about other treatment classes?

Dr. Dorff:

Most of our other treatments are really layered on top of hormone therapy. We may get to a point – 10 years from now, I don’t know, sometime in the future – when we don’t start with the hormone therapy, so a lot of patients come in asking about the new radiopharmaceutical, the Lutetium-177-PSMA that got approved last year, or about whether chemotherapy can be used. They can be, but they’re really layered on top of hormone therapy, so the hormone therapy is the first treatment, it’s the most effective right now, and then it’s continued as we swap out – we add a novel hormonal agent like abiraterone (Zytiga), or enzalutamide (Xtandi), or one of the others.

When that is no longer effective, we swap that out, we might use chemotherapy or the radiopharmaceutical. There’s also an immunotherapy that’s been around for more than a decade called sipuleucel-T, and now there’s the targeted therapies – the PARP inhibitors – as well for select patients.

Katherine:

Where do clinical trials fit into treatment?

Dr. Dorff:

That’s a great question. I’m so glad you asked. Clinical trials some people mistakenly believe are your last choice, like you’ve gone through every single treatment we have, and then you go to a clinical trial. That’s not the case. Some of the biggest advances in prostate cancer have been when we’ve taken drugs that work in a more advanced resistance setting, like a second- or third-line, and when we move them right up front, first-line, we dramatically amplify their benefit. We dramatically improve survival.

So, if we don’t think about a clinical trial in the first line, we’re going to miss the opportunity to not only develop those new treatment paradigms, but actually participate in them ahead of when they become the new standard of care down the road.

Another misconception that people have often about clinical trials is that they are always randomized, there’s always a flipping of the coin in assignment of different treatments, and that they may include a placebo. So, most of our clinical trials at this point do not include placebo. Because we have so many effective treatment options, we’re more and more frequently comparing either two drugs against one, so everyone’s getting at least one effective drug, or we’re not comparing at all, but everyone’s getting some new treatment or some combination of treatments when we’re working out dosing in that scenario, like a Phase II.

So, clinical trials are really an option at any stage of prostate cancer, even at diagnosis for localized disease all the way through, and truly, I hope people would consider looking at those as options because that’s where some of the most innovative treatment options are going to become available to them.

Katherine:

Yeah. What sorts of questions should patients ask their doctors about clinical trials?

Dr. Dorff:

There are a few really basic things to ask about any clinical trial that you’re being presented as an option. One is is there a randomization? Is there a treatment assignment where some people get one treatment and some people get another treatment? Another one is is there a placebo? I think if we just get those questions up front, right away, then people may be more open to hearing what’s happening in the rest of the trial.

Our informed consent documents are reviewed by ethical consultants and are really meant to inform about risks more than benefits, so the other thing to really ask the provider is what’s the goal of the trial, because that’s often not clearly communicated in an informed consent. Why did the people who designed this trial think it was a good idea? Is there science behind it, is there clinical data behind it, and do you think this is something that, in the future, could end up being the new way that prostate cancer is treated?

What is it about me that you think makes me a good candidate for this trial? What’s been your experience? – even though it’s more anecdotal, but it’s often nice to hear from a physician “I have patients on this trial, they’re having these types of side effects, they’re having these types of benefits, and we can’t know what will happen for you, but at least I have a sense of how things are going on this trial.”

Katherine:

Yeah, those are great questions. What about cost? Is that a question that patients should ask about?

Dr. Dorff:

Patients often do ask about that. Costs are really complex in this medical care landscape that we have in the United States. Clinical trials – I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding about costs. Some people think that everything is paid for by the clinical trial, which is not true.

There is a system by which we assign things that will be paid for by the clinical trial – anything that’s novel and only being done as part of the trial versus things that would be done anyway if you were not in the trial and if you were just receiving regular care, such as your PSA test, your clinic visit, your CAT scan potential, or your bone scan.

So, there are some costs that are not covered, and in that case, if a patient has an insurance plan where they have copays for a clinic visit or for a CAT scan, those aspects that are not felt to be unique to the clinical trial and are getting billed to standard insurance – that means they’re still going to have those copays, but anything that is unique, if there’s an extra set of scans, if there are extra clinic visits, those get billed to the study, and the patient should have no extra cost on that basis.

Insurance companies should view clinical trials very favorably, because they’re often getting some clinical care paid for. They’re getting extra treatment at no cost, so anything that’s new on the treatment plan in the clinical trial is free to the insurance company on the patient, it’s paid for by the study, so it’s a good deal, generally speaking, and more importantly, there’s legislation that really seeks to ensure that regardless of your insurance, you should have access to clinical trials because they are felt to be often the best way to have your cancer treated.

Katherine:

Yeah. Dr. Dorff, are there emerging therapies that are showing promise?

Dr. Dorff:

There are a lot of emerging therapies. People all over the country and all over the world are working to find new and better ways to treat prostate cancer. So, the breakthrough radiopharmaceutical last year of the Leutetium-177-PSMA is the first, but not the last, I believe, in that field. There are other antigens we can target rather than PSMA, there are other particles we can use rather then Lutetium-177, and so, there are currently clinical trials looking at different constructs.

Take a winning strategy, and then tweak it a little bit to see if you can make it even better, right? Similarly, the PARP inhibitors, which are FDA-approved for prostate cancer, are being studied in different types of clinical trials to try to expand the number of patients who can benefit from them and amplify the benefit – so, moving them earlier, increasing the types of patients who are appropriate.

And there are additional targeted therapies, like the PI3-kinase AKT inhibitors, the CDK-46 inhibitors, that are being looked at in combination with our standard hormonal drugs that I think could end up being big advances depending how the results play out. There’s a novel class of drugs, the antigen receptor degraders, which also look tremendously promising in clinical trials and are in Phase III testing in some cases, and then, some additional ones are a little earlier in testing.

And then, there’s immunotherapy, which is at the heart of my research at City of Hope. Immunotherapy offers the promise of using your own immune system to control the cancer or eradicate the cancer, so we’re looking at different strategies, from oncolytic viruses, to bi-specific T-cell-engaging antibodies, to CAR-T cell therapies in hopes that we will find something that can really induce a big, deep, durable, long-lasting remission for patients.

Katherine:

That’s really promising. What about treating symptoms of the disease itself, like bone pain?

Dr. Dorff:

Bone metastases are the predominant pattern of spread, and so, what really drives the story for a lot of our prostate cancer patients during their journey with cancer has to do with bone complications – not always pain, but unfortunately, there can be pain pretty frequently.

So, we start by trying to protect the bones early on. We know that when we use our hormonal therapies, osteoporosis can develop, so we want to avoid that. I’ve had patients where their cancer was well-controlled, but they had an osteoporosis fracture that they were miserable from, so it starts at the beginning, at protecting the bones, checking a bone density scan and/or using a bone-supportive agent like zoledronic acid (Zometa) or denosumab (Xgeva), and then, in the metastatic setting, as the disease progresses, we intensify that use of bone-supportive agents.

We sometimes end up using radiation therapy, which is primarily external-beam traditional kind of radiation, but there is also the radiopharmaceutical Radium-223 (Xofigo), which delivers the radiation kind of more internally through the bloodstream to areas of the bone that are active from the prostate cancer, and sometimes we end up needing something even like surgery, but the bones are a major part of the story.

Katherine:

Yeah. What about sexual dysfunction? Are there approaches that can help?

Dr. Dorff:

So, this is generally an area that’s managed more by urology. There definitely are things that urologists do to help patients who have lost sexual function due to prostate cancer treatments. They can involve medicines, they can involve slightly more invasive things like a suppository or an intracavernosal injection. There are also more mechanical ways, like a pump device or a penile implant, but generally, anything beyond the first level, which is Viagra, will be handled more by a urologist than a medical oncologist.

Katherine:

What is palliative care, and how can it help men with prostate cancer?

Dr. Dorff:

Palliative care is something that we think about more towards the end of life, where we’re focusing on cancer symptoms more than treating cancer. However, some studies have shown – very prominent studies – that early palliative care in some malignancies is associated actually with better survival, meaning that paying attention to the patient’s symptoms is actually a really important part of keeping them well and keeping them alive as we treat the cancer.

So, more and more, we’re starting to integrate palliative care earlier in the disease.

I think that can sometimes signal a little alarm for patients – “Oh, I’m being referred to palliative care, that means my doctor doesn’t really think they can treat my cancer anymore” – and it’s gonna take some education to really help people transform their thinking about palliative care as a strategy that’s not for the end, but something that really should be part of our treatment all along.

So, our palliative care team, or what we call supportive medicine at City of Hope, uses treatments to manage pain. They have a broader spectrum, they’re more focused on all the different modalities to treat pain, so an oncologist or urologist can treat pain, but when we refer to palliative or supportive medicine, you get just that extra expertise, especially if people are having a lot of side effects from pain medicines, but our supportive medicine doctors aren’t only pain management doctors.

They help with other symptoms, like nausea or constipation, to some extent urinary symptoms for my prostate cancer patients, although we rely heavily on urology for that, and also just the existential, or spiritual, or emotional components.

Our supportive medicine team typically includes not only an MD, an advanced practice provider like an NP, but also someone from psychology, someone from social work, because dealing with cancer is really stressful and challenging, and in an ideal world, palliative care is not only taking care of the symptoms of the cancer that are physical, but also helping the whole being, the whole family unit that’s going through this experience have less emotional distress as well.

Katherine:

Yeah. Well, that leads us perfectly into the next section, which is about emotional support. Beyond treatment, another large part of thriving with prostate cancer is dealing with the emotions that come along with the diagnosis, like fear and anxiety. Whether it’s the stress of being in active surveillance or worrying about progression, many patients need help coping emotionally. Why do you feel it’s so important for patients to share these emotions with their doctor or their healthcare team?

Dr. Dorff:

I think it’s a conversation that’s not held enough between patients and their physicians, and if we don’t remember to ask our patients, we will just focus on the medical because that’s our main wheelhouse, that’s what we’re best at. So, if a patient brings forth that they’re having some emotions related to the cancer, it is helpful to us in remembering – we ought to do everything 100 percent all of the time, but let’s face it, we’re physicians with time pressures and certain areas of comfort and expertise. So, if a patient brings it up, that is super helpful because then we know someone’s needing assistance, which probably every patient is, whether they tell us or not, but that triggers us to then offer appropriate referrals.

And also, it tells us they’re open to it. If we have to ask every patient, “Are you having any emotional distress?”, even if someone answers yes and then we make a referral, they may not have actually been ready for it or open to it. So, having the patient come forth and raise that, I think, is really helpful and important.

Katherine:

Many prostate cancer community members are interested in learning more about their cancer and are hungry for information. For men who are newly diagnosed, are there educational resources that you recommend?

Dr. Dorff:

There are several good patient-focused or patient-facing educational resources for cancers generally. So, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, or ASCO, runs a patient-facing website called Cancer.net.

They also produce a lot of educational materials. So, for instance, we have some handouts in our clinic rooms produced by ASCO that really just help patients understand, okay, when you’re having diarrhea related to cancer treatment, here are some strategies. So, there’s lots of good information from them. There’s also a group specific for prostate cancer called Prostate Cancer Foundation.

So, they are an organization that works a lot in funding new research in prostate cancer, but they also put out some really helpful publications, again, that are aimed at prostate cancer patients, and really kind of covering the whole spectrum of disease, as well as more holistic aspects which are really important, things like diet and exercise and how that plays into overall wellbeing and health during prostate cancer treatment. So, we keep some of those little booklets in our rooms as well to hand out to patients, but they’re probably available by request online as well on one of the Prostate Cancer Foundation websites.

Katherine:

Yeah. What about resources for prostate cancer patients who are already really knowledgeable about their disease and want to stay up to date on the latest research and treatment? What’s available for them?

Dr. Dorff:

There are some conferences that seek to educate patients on a little higher level. It can be challenging because not every prostate cancer patient is at the same place, but they can look for some of those conferences. Frankly, they can follow Twitter or some of the other social media.

Sometimes prostate cancer support groups also will bring in speakers who try to provide updates about emerging treatments, or where the research is going, or where the field is going. So, most big cancer centers are gonna have a support group.

Obviously, it’s very variable, and sometimes they may focus more on the psychosocial aspects, but I do think a lot of them will include people like me, who are just trying to connect with the cancer patients on various levels about the latest and greatest.

Katherine:

We received some audience questions prior to today’s webinar, and I’d like to go through some of them with you. Bob asks, “Does androgen deprivation therapy cause cognitive issues?”

Dr. Dorff:

So, androgen deprivation therapy is another way of saying hormone therapy. We’re lowering testosterone, which is an androgen, and the question about cognitive issues is a good one. If you look in the literature, it’s not been well documented, and part of that is because our patients tend to have age and other comorbidities that can lead to changes in cognition happening at the same time as they’re being treated for prostate cancer, but also because the tools just haven’t been very good.

The tests where we measure how your brain is working have traditionally not been very good. There are some better tools that have been developed, and we’re hoping to be able to – with some ongoing studies – better define are there cognitive changes? If so, how severe are they, how common are they, are they more common with one drug versus another? Very basic questions.

I will say in my own practice, after 15 years of treating prostate cancer, I do believe that some patients experience cognitive changes during ADT. They can be mild, like taking longer to remember someone’s name or walking into a room and forgetting why you’re there, which, frankly, happens to all of us when we’re not having our best days, but obviously, I do see that a little bit more with prostate cancer patients who are receiving hormonal therapy.

For some of my really high-functioning patients, it can be helpful to use a drug that treats attention because some of the cognitive dysfunction actually ends up being an issue with attention. So, we use drugs like methylphenidate (Ritalin) or dextroamphetamine mixed salts (Adderall) to support patients who need to be really focused, and I’ve had many patients tell me that that has made a huge difference for them, so it’s not going to solve the overall changes that may happen in the brain on the basis of the hormonal deprivation, which we know happens from animal models, but it can help in the short term so that men can continue to function at a high cognitive level, despite ADT, when needed.

Katherine:

Yeah. George wants to know, “Are there any advances in imaging that patients should know about?”

Dr. Dorff:

Yes. So, the PSMA PET scans – so, these are a nuclear medicine imaging that looks for prostate cancer using a protein called PSMA, and there are several of them, there’s the F-18-based one called Pylarify, and then there are the Gallium-68 versions, Illuccix and Locametz, so those have been revolutionary. They can see prostate cancer in much smaller quantities, so we use them a lot for rising PSA after prostate surgery or radiation to see where is his small amount of cancer, and hopefully, we can treat it better by seeing it earlier.

They are also now being used to select patients for potential benefit from a treatment like Lutetium-177-PSMA, which obviously won’t work if the cancer doesn’t have that protein, so the imaging helps see who’s got the protein, who can benefit from the treatment. So, that’s the biggest imaging advance. There are some others, like using MRI fused to ultrasound for prostate biopsy at diagnosis. There’s also another kind of PET scan called a fluciclovine PET scan, which we still sometimes use because not 100 percent of prostate cancers have PSMAs, so sometimes we need something a little bit different.

Katherine:

Antonio had this question. “I heard that statins – cholesterol-lowering drugs – could help fight prostate cancer. Is that true?”

Dr. Dorff:

There’s been a lot of interest in the statins because in addition to having those positive effects against cholesterol, which are helpful when hormonal therapy that we use for prostate cancer disrupts our lipids, they have these anti-inflammatory properties that are being looked at in a number of different research avenues.

And then, there has also been a new, evolving understanding that they interfere with some hormone-binding compounds in the body, and so, could augment the effect of androgen deprivation therapy.

So, there has been interest in prospective studies because the literature we have right now is really retrospective, so we can’t really tell a patient which statin drug or what dose and for how long would be associated with a positive benefit, and we don’t really yet know how to use them proactively during someone’s treatment, but I will say if you’re starting on hormone therapy or ADT, having your lipids checked and getting on a statin if your lipids are not in a good range is really important anyway to just protect your cardiovascular health, and then, maybe we’ll find out that it does actually help your prostate cancer treatment be more successful as well, but I would say those data still need to be fleshed out a bit more.

Katherine:

Thank you for those answers, Dr. Dorff. I appreciate it. And please continue to send your questions to question@powerfulpatients.org, and we’ll work to get them answered on future programs. As we close out our conversation, Dr. Dorff, I wanted to get your thoughts on where we stand with research progress. Can patients truly thrive with advanced prostate cancer?

Dr. Dorff:

Absolutely. I would say in the 15 years I’ve been treating prostate cancer, I’ve really seen a transformation from a disease with a short lifespan and a lot of symptoms to a disease where people can actually thrive, living more than a decade even with advanced or metastatic prostate cancer, because the treatments have gotten so much better, and I think also potentially due to the increased awareness on the part of physicians about helping people stay healthy during their longer-term treatment. So, definitely, my patients today live longer and better than my patients did when I started treating prostate cancer.

Katherine:

Well, it seems like there’s a lot of progress and hope, then, for prostate cancer patients.

Dr. Dorff:

Absolutely.

Katherine:

Thank you so much for joining us today, Dr. Dorff. I really appreciate it.

Dr. Dorff:

Thank you. I hope people found it helpful.

Katherine:

And thank you to all of our partners. If you would like to watch this webinar again, there will be a replay available soon. You’ll receive an email when it’s ready. And don’t forget to take the survey immediately following this webinar. It will help us as we plan future programs. To learn more about prostate cancer and to access tools to help you become a proactive patient, visit powerfulpatients.org. I’m Katherine Banwell. Thanks for being with us today.

What Questions Should You Consider Asking Your Prostate Cancer Care Team?

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What Questions Should You Consider Asking Your Prostate Cancer Care Team? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

How can prostate cancer patients have engaged conversations with their healthcare team? This animated video reviews key questions patients can ask to help them navigate their treatment and care decisions.

Download Resource Guide

See More From Shared Decision Making: Navigating Prostate Cancer Care

Related Resources:

Building a Relationship With Your Prostate Cancer Healthcare Team

You Have a Role in Your Prostate Cancer Care Decision

Transcript: 

Niki: 

Hi, I’m Niki, and I’m a prostate cancer nurse practitioner. And this is Anthony, who is living with advanced prostate cancer.  

[Disclaimer on screen: Patient experience depicted in this video is fictional.] 

Anthony: 

Thanks for joining us! In this video, Niki and I are going to walk you through key questions to ask your prostate cancer team as you navigate your care decisions. 

First of all, it’s helpful to ask your physician how much experience they have treating prostate cancer patients. If appropriate, you may want to consider a second opinion. 

Niki: 

And it’s important to also have a deeper understanding of your disease by asking: 

  • What stage and grade is the prostate cancer? Has it spread beyond the prostate? 
  • Are there additional tests that you should undergo to provide a fuller picture of your disease? 
  • What educational resources are recommended to learn more about prostate cancer? 

Anthony: 

Once you understand more about your diagnosis and disease, then it’s time to really understand what steps could be next.  

And, if – and when – your disease does need to be treated, you should feel engaged in deciding on your treatment plan.  

Niki: 

That’s right. You can start by asking if treatment needs to begin right away or if you will be monitored for any changes. 

  • Then, establish the goals of your treatment plan. Based on your diagnosis and stage of disease, is the goal to try to cure the cancer or to manage the disease symptoms?  
  • Ask what treatment options are available to you and which approach is recommended for YOUR disease? 
  • And inquire if there is a clinical trial that could be right for you.  
  • Finally, ask what your options are if the initial treatment doesn’t appear to be effective or if your disease progresses. 

Once you know your options, ask about the potential short term and long-term side effects of each approach and how they may be managed. 

Anthony: 

You should also find out how your lifestyle may be impacted. For instance: 

  • Find out how each approach could impact your daily life, including your sex life, and for how long. 
  • You may also inquire about how treatment may impact fertility and if you should speak with a fertility specialist. 
  • Ask about the financial implications of each approach and whether there are resources for financial assistance. 

Niki: 

That’s great advice, Anthony. We hope these questions give you a good starting point for engaged conversations with your team. Remember, you may have more questions related to your individual situation, these are just a starting point to help.

Anthony: 

Don’t forget to download the guide that accompanies this video. It will have a comprehensive list of the questions we have reviewed. 

And visit powerfulpatients.org/PC to access more videos with Niki and me.