How to Play an Active Role in Your Prostate Cancer Treatment and Care Decisions

How to Play an Active Role in Your Prostate Cancer Treatment and Care Decisions from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What steps can you take to engage in your prostate cancer treatment and care decisions? Dr. Atish Choudhury discusses current and emerging prostate cancer therapies, reviews key treatment decision-making factors, and shares advice for self-advocacy.

Dr. Atish Choudhury is the Co-Director of the Prostate Cancer Center at Dana-Farber/Brigham & Women’s Cancer Center.
Learn more about Dr. Choudhury here.

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Transcript:

Katherine:                  

Hello, and welcome. I’m Katherine Banwell, your host for today’s webinar. Today, we’re going to explore the goals of advanced prostate cancer treatment and discuss tools for playing an active role in your care decisions.

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. Joining us today is Dr. Atish Choudhury. Dr. Choudhury, welcome. Would you please introduce yourself?

Dr. Choudhury:        

Hello. Thank you so much for the invitation. So, I’m a medical oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and I’m the codirector of the prostate cancer center at the Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center. And I serve as the chair of the Lank Center for Translational Research as well, and ’t’s my pleasure to be here.

Katherine:                  

Thank you so much for taking the time out of your schedule to join us. Today, we’re talking about advanced prostate cancer.

What exactly does “advanced” mean in terms of this cancer?

Dr. Choudhury:          

Yeah. So, it’s actually a pretty broad term, and it can mean different things in different contexts. But generally, what it means is that it’s cancer that has extended outside of the confines of the boundaries of the prostate itself – either locally where it is into the surrounding fat around the prostate capsule or to local lymph nodes, where it could also spread to other parts of the body – like lymph nodes, bone, and other organs.

So, it can really mean different things depending on the context.

Katherine:                  

Before we get into the types of treatment available, let’s start by understanding the goals of treatment. What are the goals of advanced stage prostate cancer?

Dr. Choudhury:              

So, in general, the goal of treating any cancer is to a live a long, happy, healthy life with limited quality of life troubles from the cancer itself or its treatments. And so, for localized prostate cancer, that generally means treating with curative intent – that we give radiation or surgery, potentially in combination with hormonal treatments so that the cancer is taken care of and people can be cured and not need further treatments moving forward at all.

And there are situations, even in fairly advanced cases, where that’s a reasonable and accomplishable goal. And there are other situations that we might not be able to cure the cancer completely, but the treatments can be quite effective at keeping it under control and keep people with a very good quality of life so that prostate cancer is not a day-to-day burden for them and that they can survive with cancer for years, and years, and years.

Katherine:                  

It sounds like these goals would be determined with members of your healthcare team. So, who is typically on a patient’s prostate cancer healthcare team?

Dr. Choudhury:            

Yeah. So, generally, the consultations here at Dana-Farber are multidisciplinary, with a medical oncologist, a radiation oncologist, and a urologic oncologist – so, a surgeon.

And so, if a patient is a good candidate for treatment to the prostate itself, then certainly, the surgeon and the radiation oncologist will talk about those treatments. And if the treatment is primarily with medications, then the medical oncologist will generally sort of take the lead. But there is often a role for local treatment to the prostate itself, even in cancer that’s spread beyond the prostate. So, that’s why the multidisciplinary consultation is so important.

Katherine:                  

Right. What do you feel is the patient’s role as a team member?

Dr. Choudhury:           

Absolutely. So, I think it is very important for the patient to make sure that they come into these multidisciplinary meetings with questions around “What is my stage?” “What are the choices?” “What do I expect with treatment? Without treatment? With the various treatment options?” And basically, to take in the advice that they’re getting from the different members of the multidisciplinary team, and really think about how that’s impactful for them and their goals for themselves and what they really hope for the short term and for the long term.

I think what gets tricky is that there’s really very not-great sources of information that’s out there online and in YouTube videos and things like that, and I think it does play an important role for the patient to really understand what are the real high-quality sources of information – they tend to come from academic medical centers like ours. And certainly, we do encourage second opinions at other high-quality, high-volume centers so that the patients understand that the recommendations that are being made are generally made based on the based data and with people with a lot of experience at treating their kind of cancer.

Katherine:                  

What about caregivers? How do they fit into the team?

Dr. Choudhury:             

Caregivers are critical because patients are not always the most expressive at, really, what their wants, and needs, and desires are. And especially when they’re on treatment, sometimes they’re not so expressive around the things that are bothering them on a day-to-day basis.

So, the caregivers are really important for communication with us to be kind of another set of eyes and ears in terms of kind of reporting what the patient’s symptoms are or what their goals or desires are that maybe they themselves don’t feel comfortable expressing. But they also play an important role in helping us with, kind of, lifestyle recommendations to the patient. Because certainly, much of the process of doing well with prostate cancer treatments is kind of lifestyle modifications – makes sure you’re eating healthy, exercising regularly – and the caregivers can play a very important role in making sure that patients stick to that kind of regimen as well.    

Katherine:                  

I would think one of the issues for a patient too is that just having a cancer can be overwhelming and can make it difficult for them to even remember all the questions and concerns that they have.

Dr. Choudhury:            

Yeah, that’s absolutely critical, and the caregivers play a very important role. So, often, people who are not partnered, for example, will just bring a friend to these appointments just to be that second set of eyes and ears.

Katherine:                  

Dr. Choudhury, we received this question from an audience member prior to the program: What is palliative care?

Dr. Choudhury:           

So, palliative care is really a branch of medicine that helps with symptom management. And so, that symptom management doesn’t necessarily have to be end-of-life sort of symptoms relating to death and dying. It can be just along the way to help with managing the symptoms related to cancer and its treatment, but also to be kind of another medical provider to help with communication of goals of care – what’s really bothersome, what’s really important – so that we kind of incorporate those wishes and desires into the management decisions that we make.

So, a patient does not have to be at end-of-life to engage with palliative care. Certainly, even earlier engagement with palliative care can be helpful to maximize quality of life along the treatment journey. But as symptoms become more bothersome, certainly, our palliative care colleagues can be incredibly helpful – not just in helping manage pain, but also nausea, also depression and psychological side effects. So, they’re a really critical part of our treatment team.

Katherine:                  

Yeah. I think we have a pretty good understanding and the goals of treatment. So, let’s walk through the types of therapy that are used today to treat prostate cancer.

If you would start with surgery?

Dr. Choudhury:            

Sure. So, surgery is a radical prostatectomy, and they take out the prostate – they take out neighboring structures called seminal vesicles, they take out the surrounding fat, and they’ll usually take out some neighboring lymph nodes as well. And there are advantages of surgery in that when the prostate is out, the pathologist can examine the whole prostate front to back, side to side, as well as those neighboring structures to really understand the stage of the cancer – “Where is it?” – and also, the grade – “Is it a high-grade cancer, a low-grade cancer, somewhere in the middle?”

And it really helps guide “What is the risk of developing recurrence afterwards, and are there further treatments that we should be giving after the surgery? For example, radiation to the prostate bed to decrease the risk of recurrences. Surgery does have its own set of potential side effects and complications, so it’s not appropriate for everyone, but in general, that’s the process.

Katherine:                  

What other treatment options? You mentioned radiation. What else is there?         

Dr. Choudhury:          

Yeah, so, radiation comes in two forms: there’s seed radiation, which is implantable little radioactive pellets that are implanted throughout the prostate. And then, there’s external radiation, and that can be given in several forms and over several schedules that it’s really important to discuss with the care team.

The other forms of treatment that people on this call might’ve heard about or read about are in a category called “focal treatments,” and these are basically ways to – and the term we use is a blade but zap – an area of the prostate using lasers, or high-intensity ultrasound, or with freezing an area of the prostate, or with something called “irreversible electroporation.”

These are basically all ways to, again, zap an area of the prostate either with heat or with cold with the intention of killing off cancer cells in an area. And the trouble is that none of these treatments have actually been demonstrated to improve outcomes related to prostate cancer compared to just surveillance alone. And it does complicate, sort of, the monitoring afterwards to see if something has come back.

But there might be very selected patients where there’s an area of cancer that’s seen on a scan – like an MRI – with no cancer seen outside of that area who might decide to pursue this possibility of focal treatment with the goal of maybe putting off the need for something like radiation or surgery. But that’s something that really should be discussed with a multidisciplinary team so that people really understand what they’re getting into in terms of risks and potential benefits.

So, those treatments are not really considered standard at this time.

Katherine:                  

What about hormonal therapy?        

Dr. Choudhury:   

Yeah, so, hormonal therapy plays a role in the treatment of prostate cancer, really depending on the stage and the other treatments that are being considered. So, for example, if a patient is going to surgery for a localized prostate cancer, in general, we wouldn’t use hormonal treatment either before or after the surgery unless they’re planned for radiation after the surgery.

However, for patients who have intermediate risk or higher localized prostate cancer and are getting radiation, then we will often recommend hormonal treatments, which are basically testosterone-lowering drugs, to make the radiation work as well as possible. And then, for patients who have advanced cancer beyond where surgery or radiation is going to be of help, then, hormonal treatments are important to treat the cancer wherever it is.

And that’s because prostate cancer cells, wherever they are in the body – wherever they’re in the prostate itself, or in lymph nodes, or bones, or other organs – depend on the testosterone in your body to supply a fuel – to support its growth and survival.

And so, lowering the level of testosterone in the body basically deprives the cancer cells of that fuel and starts a process of killing cancer cells even without any need for radiation, or chemotherapy, or things like that. However, hormonal treatments are not curative. They don’t kill all the cancer – they kill some and put the rest to sleep. And so, if you stop the hormonal treatment, the cancer will grow back, and that’s why it’s not a treatment on its own for localized prostate cancer.

And that’s also why, for prostate cancer that’s spread, we often add on additional medications to the testosterone-lowering drugs to be more effective at really killing the cancer wherever it is compared to the testosterone suppression alone.

Katherine:                  

Oh, I see. For advanced disease, what treatments are available for patients that are hormone-sensitive or -resistant?

Dr. Choudhury:           

Yeah, so “hormone-sensitive” means that the cancer has advanced, but the patient hasn’t started on testosterone-lowering drugs yet. And so, as I had mentioned, testosterone lowering is really the backbone of treatment of these patients. And so, there are additional treatments that have been demonstrated previously to be effective after testosterone-lowering by itself stops working, and these include a chemotherapy drug called docetaxel. And in addition, there are more potent hormonal drugs called abiraterone, enzalutamide, apalutamide, and darolutamide.

And the role of these other drugs is to block hormonal signaling within the cancer cells from hormones other than testosterone. And so, by doing the more potent hormonal drug in conjunction with the testosterone lowering, that leads to a much deeper response – much more tumor shrinkage – and, it turns out, also prolonged survival in patients treated with those combination treatments – compared top people who are treated with testosterone lowering alone and then receive these drugs later.

So, there’s something about treating more aggressively at the beginning in this hormone-sensitive state that plays out in prolongation of survival. And not only prolonged survival, but improved quality of life due to delaying the symptoms of cancer grown and progression.

Katherine:                  

Right.        

Dr. Choudhury:   

When we then talk about castration resistant disease, certainly we use the same classes of drugs, but then, there’s a wider armamentarium of things that we use that include, again, other kinds of chemotherapy.

There are radiation drugs, and an approved drug Radium-223. And there’s another drug on the horizon called Lutetium PSMA. There are immune therapy drugs – something called Sipuleucel-T – and then, this is also a situation where we do genetic testing of the cancer to understand if there’re certain –what we call “therapeutic vulnerabilities.”

Other treatment options that are available based on the genetics of the cancer that might be helpful in some people? And specific options include a chemo-immune therapy called “Keytruda” in a small subset of patients with particular genetic changes involving genes involved in mismatched repair of DNA. And then, there’s another set of targeted treatments called “PARP inhibitors” for certain sets of patients who have alterations in genes involved in homologous recombination repair of DNA.

So, that’s all very complicated, and so that’s why it’s important to get treated with high-volume providers of prostate cancer patients so that they’re really aware and onboard with these various treatment options that are available.

Katherine:                  

Yeah. Where do clinical trials fit in?

Dr. Choudhury:       

So, clinical trials can fit in anywhere along the treatment trajectory for prostate cancer. It’s not something that’s reserved for kind of late-stage disease. So, for example, for people with localized disease, there are different types of treatment strategies that might be available to maybe enhance the activity of the surgery or the radiation that’s planned. And so, we might consider a clinical trial even for localized prostate cancer.

And then, anywhere along the way, there are standard treatments that are available, and then, there are some experimental approaches that might be available. And the experimental approaches might be to add an additional drug to the standard or to actually – what we call “deescalate treatment” – give a little bit less of the medication and see if the outcomes are the same. And these are tests.

And so, the control arm, when there’s a randomized trial, is generally considered a standard of care. And then, the experimental arm is some alteration or deviation from that standard. But many of our trials are also single-arm trials where we’re testing some experimental regimen that all patients who participate in the trial will take part in, and it’s really important for the patient to ask, “What are the clinical trials available?” “What are the alternatives as far as standard treatments?” and “Are there other clinical trials other than the one that’s being discussed,” that might be appropriate for them?

Katherine:                  

Are there emerging approaches that patients should know about?   

Dr. Choudhury:        

Yeah. So, a lot of the emerging approaches are related to the genetics of the prostate cancer, as I just mentioned. And then, these different forms of radiation drugs – in addition to the ones that have already demonstrated survival advantage, there are other ones in the pipeline. And then, one thing that patients are very curious about is immune therapy approaches to prostate cancer.

Now, the standard kind of immune therapy drugs that are approved for lung cancer, and melanoma, and kidney cancers don’t tend to work particular well for prostate cancer. But there are many clinical trials trying to combine those kinds of drugs with other drugs or have newer approaches to immune therapies that patients with advanced cancer can certainly ask about.

Again, all of this is really experimental, and people need to understand that these sorts of approaches aren’t going to help everyone. But participating in a clinical trial allows our patients to contribute to knowledge that can be useful for other patients down the line.

Katherine:                  

Right. Now that we’ve delved into the types of treatment, let’s talk about what goes into deciding on an approach. What do you typically consider when determining the best treatment approach or option for a patient?

Dr. Choudhury:   

So, the starting point and the ending point is the patient themselves. And so, “the patient” means “What is their age? What is their fitness level? What are their activities? What’s the overall life expectancy? What are there other medical issues?” And then, we consider the cancer – “What is the stage? What is the grade? Where has it spread to, if it’s spread?”

And then, we try to incorporate all of those pieces with data – with clinical trials that have already been reported – and we have a lot of data in prostate cancer from patients who’ve participated in clinical trials, often randomized to one approach versus another, that gives us a sense of “What are the approaches that really benefit patients in terms of increasing likelihood of cure or prolonging the survival?”

And so, once we incorporate all of those things, we can come up with some treatment suggestions, and then patient preference on those suggestions obviously plays a very important role. But sometimes, we start down a line, and the patient is having troublesome side effects or it’s not working as well as we’d really hoped, and it’s important to be adaptive and to change things if things are not going down a route that we’d really hoped. So, that’s an ongoing conversation. It’s not that you make a treatment plan at the first visit and that’s the plan that’s stuck with throughout the whole course of things.

It’s a conversation at every visit on how things are going in terms of how the patients are doing and how the cancer is responding. And then, again, try to manage side effects as well as we can and adjust things if we need to along the way – and maybe switch to something that’s potentially going to be better tolerated or more effective, depending on what we see.

Katherine:                  

Right. It sounds like there are many factors to weigh when making this decision. I’d like to address a list of common concerns about treatment that we’ve heard from the community. So, I’d love to get your take on these. “There’s nothing that can be done about advanced prostate cancer.” Is that true?

Dr. Choudhury:           

So, that is very much untrue in that even patients with pretty advanced prostate cancer – even what we call “high-volume” kinds of prostate cancer – can live for years, and years, and years with appropriate treatments.

And the concern, oftentimes, is that the way that we get those years, and years, and years are with treatments that lower levels of testosterone, and I’m guessing that some of your questions coming up are related to concerns around side effects of treatment. But many of our patients tolerate those side effects pretty well and can live quite a good, and vigorous, and fulfilling life even with pretty advanced prostate cancer.

Katherine:                  

The next one: “Clinical trials are a last-resort treatment option.”

Dr. Choudhury:   

Yeah, so, as I’d mentioned before, clinical trials can be appropriate anywhere along the treatment trajectory of prostate cancer, and they are often being compared against standards which are often pretty good, but can we make them better? And certainly, participating in clinical trials isn’t for everyone, but for a long of our patients who are interested in seeing if an experimental approach might be beneficial to them or contributing some knowledge to patients down the line really do find trial participation to be quite fulfilling.

Katherine:                  

All right. The next one is: “Prostate cancer isn’t genetic, so I don’t need to be tested.” Is that the case?

Dr. Choudhury:        

No. So, it turns out that prostate cancer is actually one of our most heritable cancers. Somewhere between 40% and 50% of the predisposition to prostate cancer is actually genetic, or inherited based on family. So, the part that’s tricky and the part that is hard to maybe explain to patients is that a lot of that heritability is not encompassed in particular cancer genes in the way that many people are familiar with with breast and ovarian cancers, which are often linked to genes called “BRCA-1” and “BRCA-2.” So, a small subset of patients with prostate cancer do have alterations in that BRCA-2 gene, or BRCA-1, or ATM, or some other genes involved in breast and ovarian cancers.

And that does impact, potentially, their treatments down the line, and certainly is impactful for themselves, their siblings, their children as far as, potentially, screening recommendations for other cancers. But oftentimes, we’ll do one of these tests in patients who have a pretty extensive family history of prostate cancer, and they come out negative, and the patient is very confused because they clearly have a family history, but it’s because not all the risk of prostate cancer is actually encompassed in these gene tests that we run.

Katherine:                  

Ah, okay. The next concern is “I’ll lose all sexual function when I receive treatment.”

Dr. Choudhury:         

So, it very much depends exactly what the treatment is, and what’s being offered, and what the recovery is like.

So, for example, for patients who go into a prostatectomy and have very good erectile function, it’s not inevitable that you’ll lose your sexual functioning after a prostatectomy. There is a process – we kind of refer to it as “penile rehab” – of using medications like a Viagra or Sialis to restore the blood flow. You could use certain things like vacuum pump devices to restore the blood flow, and again, it’s not inevitable that people are going to lose their sexual functioning after a prostatectomy.

Even with testosterone suppression, while it plays a role in libido and erectile function, it’s not inevitable that people lose their libido and erectile function completely, even on these drugs. But certainly, more often than not, people will lose their erectile function on testosterone-lowering medications.

And so, there are alternative ways to get erections – involving, again, use of vacuum pump devices or injections that people can give themselves into the penis. People can have penile implant surgery to be able to get erections that way. And so, it’s really dependent on what the situation is.

Again, none of those more mechanical interventions are really ideal, but particularly when people have a defined course of treatment – for example, a surgery or radiation with a brief course of hormones – people can recover erectile function even after those sorts of interventions. And if they can’t, then we do have other approaches that will allow people to still be able to be sexually intimate with their partner after all of the treatments are completed.

Katherine:                  

Dr. Choudhury, one more concern: “My symptoms and side effects can’t be managed.”

Dr. Choudhury:           

Yeah. So, again, it’s very rare that we run into situations where there are side effects or symptoms that can’t be managed at all, in the sense that we have very effective medications against hot flashes, or moodiness, or pain, or –just fatigue. And certainly, lifestyle plays a big role in this. Also, a lot of the symptoms that people express are related to underlying depression and anxiety issues, and certainly, engaging with a mental health provider can be helpful in terms of managing those as well.

And then, there’s a lot of nonpharmacologic treatments – meaning nonmedication approaches that can provide people a lot of benefit in terms of their quality of life, and we have an integrative center called the Zakim Center for Integrative Medicine that helps with the relaxation techniques, and massage, and yoga, and acupuncture…

And people find different approaches to help manage these symptoms and side effects. And so, it’s very unusual where we run into a situation where the side effects are unbearable and unmanageable. Usually, we can manage them in some form of way that allow people to have, again, a good quality of life and a meaningful life, even on prostate cancer treatment.

Katherine:                  

Thank you, that’s really helpful. I’d like to talk about the term “shared decision making.” What does that mean to you, exactly?       

Dr. Choudhury:   

So, shared decision-making really means that when the physician conveys information to a patient, that the patient really understands what’s being said, and what, really, the alternatives are – and the real risks and the benefits of the different alternatives. And so, if a patient goes to see a surgeon and they say, “Well, we should take this out,” and there’s never really discussion of what the risks and benefits of the alternatives are –and the alternatives could be just watching, or radiation, or even more intensive treatment, then that’s not really shared decision making.

But what I think is not exactly shared decision making is when the patient is getting information from really non-knowledgeable or non-reputable sources and then starts to come up with conclusions based on hearsay or people trying to sell them a product that really hasn’t been FDA approved or really tested. And so, those are situations where when the information is really not good, then we can run into troubles with communications. But there are a lot of really excellent sources for patient information that’s available, and the Prostate Cancer Foundation is a really good source, and a lot of the academic prostate cancer centers are really great sources of information.

And so, being educated and asking good questions is really the best way for a patient to feel comfortable that they’re not missing anything and that they’re, again, having all the information that they need to make a good choice for themselves.

Katherine:                   

Do you have any advice to help patients speak up if they’re feeling like they’re not being heard?

Dr. Choudhury:           

Sure. So, I mean, there’s never any barrier to bringing up concerns with whoever that you’re seeing, and if you feel like whoever you’re talking to isn’t being receptive to those concerns, then certainly, second opinions are very useful. But if you see multiple doctors and they’re kind of telling you the same thing based on good evidence, then you probably have to take in what they’re saying, and process it, and see if it really does apply to your particular situation.

But any cancer doctor who really has your self-interest in mind will be very open to discussing the concerns that you have, so you should absolutely bring them up.

Katherine:                  

To close, Dr. Choudhury: What would you like to leave the audience with? Are you hopeful?

Dr. Choudhury:          

Yes. I’m actually incredibly hopeful. There’s been such a transformation in our diagnosis and management of prostate cancer compared to when I first started as an independent attending back in 2012. In the last ten years, there’s been so many new treatments that’ve been approved in the last decade and a lot of newer technologies available for staging patients – really finding where their prostate cancer is.

And newer technologies for treating the cancer wherever it is and in a really smart way. And so, we can really individualize our treatments for the patient that’s in front of us being a bit more intensive for people with higher-volume or higher-risk cancers, and actually potentially being able to back off treatment, and actually stopping some of the testosterone-lowering drugs in patients who are responding exceptionally well to the medications and the local treatments that we’re giving them.

And then, also, I’m really hopeful about the newer treatments and newer technologies that are on the horizon. We have newer – what we call “molecularly targeted agents.” We have new approaches involving immune therapies that are being tested – newer radiation approaches. And I feel like all of this put together allows us to, again, satisfy the goal of maintaining patients’ good, healthy, meaningful quality of life moving forward.

Katherine:                  

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

Dr. Choudhury:           

Oh, you’re welcome. It’s so wonderful to have this opportunity.

Katherine:                  

And thank you to all of our partners. Please continue to send in your questions to Question@PowerfulPatients.org, and we’ll work to get them answered on 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 Is Precision Medicine for Prostate Cancer?

What Is Precision Medicine for Prostate Cancer? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

 Prostate cancer has the option of precision medicine in the treatment toolbox. Dr. Heather Cheng from Seattle Cancer Care Alliance defines precision medicine and explains how it is used to help provide optimal prostate cancer care.

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Transcript:

Sherea Cary:

So, what is precision medicine? And what…and what is precision medicine when we think about prostate cancer?

Dr. Heather Cheng:

Yes, it’s a great question and something I get really excited about. So, precision medicine, I guess in a nutshell would be finding out more about somebody’s personal prostate cancer and being more precise about our treatment decisions, meaning using that information to avoid overtreating or using drugs or treatment that don’t work and choosing treatments that we have a much higher level of confidence will be effective. Now, that’s the potential, sometimes we’re more successful than other time, but in prostate cancer, we have a few exciting examples that are, I think that are new, that I think just get me really excited because, for example, some cancer…some people, cancers have certain mutations or markers in them, that if they’re there, which is not in all people with prostate cancer, but if they’re there, then we have a different treatment tool box for those patients, so we have new extra, extra drugs or extra treatment opportunities, and that’s the sort of precision aspect or tailoring or we’re making the treatment it better for the patient and their cancer, and that’s really exciting, so it’s not one-size-fits-all, but kind of more tailored to the patient and their particular cancer.

New Developments in Prostate Cancer Care

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Prostate cancer care has seen some recent developments. Dr. Heather Cheng from Seattle Cancer Care Alliance shares updates that are likely to be shared at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) conference and a recent treatment approval.

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Transcript:

Sherea Cary:

Are there any exciting developments being presented at the upcoming ASCO conference that you can share with us?

Dr. Heather Cheng:

Yeah, I think one of the most recent, really exciting…there are many, it’s hard to pick just one. As a medical oncologist, I’m probably paying more attention to the Phase III clinical trials in the more advanced disease, meaning for patients who have metastatic cancer, cancer of the process started in the prostate that spread to other parts of the body. There are trials that show that the combination of effective drugs that we currently use in the latest stages of prostate cancer, metastatic prostate cancer, we are moving them earlier in the disease spectrum, meaning we are not waiting until the end when people are really sick. We’re trying to use them earlier and we’re trying to use them in combination with each other to improve the outcomes of men with advanced prostate cancer, so men with prostate cancer that has spread outside the prostate can actually now live longer than they ever have ever before. Which is really, really exciting. We do need to be thinking about side effects, but some of the newest strategies are, for example, trying to understand how we can use immunotherapy more effectively, so many people may be aware that a immunotherapies are manipulating the immune system, is really effective in some types of cancers, and they have different side effects than chemotherapy, most of the time, they have fewer side effects that they occasionally can have pretty serious side effects, but as a general strategy, it’s very exciting in oncology to say, Can we encourage your own immune system, your defense system, your built-in defense system, to be more effective in addressing cancer without as many of the side effects. If we could do that, we would really be in a much better place, and for prostate cancer, it hasn’t historically been as effective, but many of the strategies now are trying to   understand how can we manipulate the system and maybe give different combinations so that that works just as well as it does for some of the other cancers.

So, that’s number one, number two is thinking about this idea of precision oncology or tailoring the treatment to the person’s cancer are based on the genetics of their cancer and genetics of the patient, and we already have some examples now of how that’s really exciting and effective, and I think then the third strategy the third approach that I’m really excited about is these drugs that are what we call targeted radiation therapies, or there’s the drug called lutetium  [Editor’s note: Pluvicto is now approved] that is likely to be approved soon, where there is a radiation molecule that is linked or tagged to basically a homing device. So, it’s an antibody, which is something that is made by the body’s immune system, but basically hones in on any cell in the body that expresses this tag called prostate-specific membrane antigen, so you’re taking a smart delivery of radiation just to those cells, not to the other cells. So, it’s hopefully not gonna have as many side effects, but it’s going to be really effective, so those are the kind of maybe in a high level over some of the things I am really excited about, and always there’s more progress and more to talk about, so hopefully, I can tell you about it again.

Sherea Cary:

Thank you. I find the information that you are providing about smart medicine very informing, and I think it can be used to help promote education in the community when we want to talk about prevention because when we talk about cancer, this…there’s this overwhelming feeling about it, and there’s sometimes a feeling of no hope, but when we put out more information about there’s ways that treatment can be targeted and where we can do prevention, if we find out early, treatments can be different and you can continue on with your life, I think that that makes a huge difference. And the more information that is provided about smart technologies for medical treatment is going to make a difference in the area of educating patients and caregivers about prevention and the importance of prevention.

Dr. Heather Cheng:

Absolutely, I think actually the most exciting thing about what I do is not necessarily the targeted precision treatments that I mentioned, what I get most excited and passionate about it is the fact that if those mutations are genetic, then what can we do for the brothers, for the sons, for the nephews, that can change things so that they don’t have to have those late-stage medications that we find the cancer early, we cure the cancer, so that it’s a non-issue. And I think that’s possible. We have to start somewhere, but I think we can definitely see benefit at the advanced disease setting, but I’m most excited and hopeful for the earlier… The sort of people who might be at risk where we can do something.  Just as you said, screening prevention…knowledge can be power. Knowledge doesn’t need to be a burden.  

Are Mobile-Optimized Tools Making an Impact in Prostate Cancer?

Are Mobile-Optimized Tools Making an Impact in Prostate Cancer? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Prostate cancer screening can now be accessed via some mobile methods. Dr. Heather Cheng from Seattle Cancer Care Alliance shares information about mobile-optimized tools and access – and how mobile access is working toward health equity.

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Transcript:

Sherea Cary:

Can you speak to any mobile-optimized tools making a difference in prostate cancer?

Dr. Heather Cheng:

So, I don’t know specifically about…well, I can speak about some efforts I know about, but I think the mobile options are really a great idea. And I think the way I would think about it is, there are maybe…and I know this is the case, for example, mammograms. But I know that there can be traveling clinics where they may offer, for example, the prostate-specific antigen blood tests, which can be used as a screening to determine if somebody might have prostate cancer, and that might be something that somebody otherwise is really busy and doesn’t necessarily have access to. Usually, it’s something that is done by the primary care provider but can be done through mobile access, and I think some of the procedures could be done like blood tests for prostate cancer, I think to get an actual diagnosis to really be confident that there is prostate cancer, not something that’s just causing the PSA, that blood test could be high. Sometimes people can have a high PSA without cancer, and so it’s important to actually get a biopsy to help be more confident and know for sure that there’s cancer. That’s usually done in a clinic, but the screening, meaning the sort of trying to figure out if somebody’s at higher risk or not can be done in a mobile van, and I think there are a number of many excellent programs around the country, not enough, probably, but whose mission it is to try to improve access to cancer screening.

Why Is Specialized Care Important in Prostate Cancer?

Why Is Specialized Care Important in Prostate Cancer? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Prostate cancer specialized care can be utilized in different ways. Dr. Heather Cheng from Seattle Cancer Care Alliance explains the various ways specialized care can be used to help provide the best care in prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment.

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Transcript:

Sherea Cary:

Can you speak to the importance of connecting to specialized care in prostate cancer?

Dr. Heather Cheng:

Yes, I think it is really important when people are thinking about a diagnosis of prostate cancer, which is a difficult thing under the best of circumstances, but it’s so important to get the best information, the most current information. And if you’re thinking about prostate cancer surgery, if you’re thinking about prostate cancer radiation, if you’re thinking about medical therapies, you want to make sure that you have the most up-to-date knowledge and you’re in the best hands, and sometimes that’s going to a cancer center or a center that does see a lot of patients like you, who have cared for a lot of patients who have been in a situation like yours and have a lot more experience and have knowledge about the most current treatments and have experience. And so I think it’s important when you’re getting a diagnosis to get that information, and to at least have knowledge about all of your options and get the best knowledge, and I think that’s where patient education and then also getting second opinions can be really helpful, and telemedicine is allowing that to be easier, but really getting all the information before you make a decision and feeling that you’re well-informed is really going to go a long way in improving your outcomes and getting kind of the best treatment that you deserve, right? Patients really deserve that.

What Is the PROMISE Study for Prostate Cancer Patients?

What Is the PROMISE Study for Prostate Cancer Patients? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Prostate cancer patients may have access to participate in prostate cancer studies. Dr. Heather Cheng from Seattle Cancer Care Alliance shares information about the PROMISE Study that she’s involved with and what the study examined in prostate cancer genetics.

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Why Is Specialized Care Important in Prostate Cancer? 


Transcript:

Dr. Heather Cheng:

The PROMISE Study is a study that I’m conducting in partnership with my colleague, Dr. Paller at the Johns Hopkins and other collaborators throughout the United States, and it’s a study to help men with prostate cancer understand their genetics. We know that there are many people who have prostate cancer who have genetic risks of prostate cancer, maybe they inherited a risk factor, but they don’t know about it, and this is important to know because now we have targeted or precision treatment options on additional toolboxes, treatments exciting treatments for those patients, but they may not be aware of it if they don’t know about their genetics. And so one is, it’s increasing the knowledge, and then also it may have important implications for the relative, so sometimes those genetic factors are shared and that information can also be life-saving. So the study is really easy, actually, patients who are interested or people that are interested who had a diagnosis of prostate cancer, go to the website, which is www.prostate cancer promise.org, and then they can read about the study and they can enroll on the web or by the Internet, and then they are mailed a saliva test or kit, and then they spit into the kit and then mail it back, and then they get a medical-grade genetic testing report back that test 30 genes that are associated with cancer risk. 

So some of those are prostate cancer, but then men who have certain mutations that we’re particularly interested in will be invited for long-term more…more long-term follow-up in all patients who participate can get a newsletter where we sort of inform them about the newest, latest, greatest things and prostate cancer. And so I think it’s really exciting because it’s increasing the ability and access of patients to genetic testing, but then also leveraging our web-based information platforms, just like this one, is to advance education and make sure we’re getting all of that excitement and opportunities out to patients even if they live far away from some of the biggest cancer centers, we want to make sure all patients have access to that knowledge.

Can Prostate Cancer Patients Rely on Telemedicine Without Risk?

Can Prostate Cancer Patients Rely on Telemedicine Without Risk? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Prostate cancer patients may have concerns about risks posed with telemedicine care. Dr. Heather Cheng from Seattle Cancer Care Alliance discusses telemedicine risks and benefits and specific situations when in-person visits help provide optimal patient care.

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Transcript:

Sherea Cary:

Is relying on telemedicine when managing prostate cancer without risk?

Dr. Heather Cheng:

No, I think with anything, there’s always some risk, I think the risks that I see as much as there are possibilities and benefits is that it can be difficult sometimes to get all the information about a patient from two dimensions. There’s a lot to be said for seeing somebody in a room in 3D, and really getting a sense of their overall help, being able to examine them, so sometimes there are things we can’t replace in terms of listening to somebody’s heart and lungs then maybe doing other examination and procedures to really understand where the patient is things like biopsies, things like treatment, seems like blood draw may still need to be part of the patient’s care in order to give the best recommendations, so even though I think there’s a huge amount of possibility for benefit of telemedicine, there are some things that cannot be replaced, and that’s the danger that if patients don’t come, if I never see somebody in 3D in clinic, then I’m losing some valuable information about that patient, and so there are times when we still like to see people maybe it’s not as frequently, so it’s more convenient, but there are times when we definitely still need to meet with people face-to-face, do procedures or medications or just lay eyes on them in real life.

So, I think that’s a danger. If that’s not present at all, then we’re going to miss important things in people’s healthcare.

Telemonitoring and How It Benefits Prostate Cancer Patients

Telemonitoring and How It Benefits Prostate Cancer Patients from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Prostate cancer can benefit from the use of telemonitoring as part of care.  Dr. Heather Cheng from Seattle Cancer Care Alliance explains telemonitoring and situations when telemonitoring can be beneficial for prostate cancer care. 

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Transcript:

Sherea Cary:

What is telemonitoring? And does it benefit prostate cancer patients?

Dr. Heather Cheng:

Yeah, telemonitoring. I think probably for prostate cancer it would best be described as monitoring symptoms, side effects, and may also include following the PSA blood and other blood tests that can be drawn at the convenience of the patient, so they may be for example, a patient could go to the lab, have their blood drawn on the weekend when they’re not working, and then have those results be available for their visit, or sometimes they don’t even need to have a visit and they can do a lot of the communications by the patient web portal, so we increasingly have that as an option where the nurses are able to…the whole team can work together to us help the patient in between, so maybe it’s not in real time, but it’s a little bit like email or Twitter where there can be communication about a patient’s healthcare and maybe a side effect optimization like somebody’s having side effects and we adjust the medication or we add another medication to make it more easy to manage, so that’s definitely something that I think is more possible in the current era of telemedicine and telemonitoring.

How Can We Improve Remote Access for Prostate Cancer Patients?

How Can We Improve Remote Access for Prostate Cancer Patients? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

How can prostate cancer remote access and care be improved for patients? Dr. Heather Cheng from Seattle Cancer Care Alliance shares how optimal remote care can be ensured and explains some situations when in-person care can provide better care. 

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Transcript:

Sherea Cary:

It sounds like to me that telemedicine is similar to the work from home, and it seems like we’re all getting benefits from the ability to be able to do some things in a remote fashion. Are there any steps being taken to improve remote access for prostate cancer patients?

Dr. Heather Cheng:

Yeah, I think…I don’t know that the efforts that we have are specific to prostate cancer patients, but I sure hope that prostate cancer patients, like all of our patients across medicine can continue to benefit from these new technologies, and I think we are getting better…we’re not perfect, of course, there’s always room for improvement, but we’re getting better at trying to partner with our patients to figure out how to do this in a way that is as optimal as possible, and sometimes I think there is great value still to seeing people face to face and examining them, and sometimes that can’t really be replaced, but maybe that’s not all the time for all the visits, and so as long as patients are comfortable using the platform, using the telemedicine, using the software and the phone, those things, some patients aren’t. So, I think we need to really make sure that the patients who are not comfortable or who need a little extra help with the technology get the help they need so that they are not left behind. Because I do worry a little bit about people who may be not as comfortable with using video conference or ZOOM or things that many of us are getting more familiar with, but not all patients are, so we need to just make sure we’re thinking about those of those who may not be quite as comfortable or maybe whose Internet access is not as stable, things like that.

Prostate Cancer Treatment Tools and Advancements

Prostate Cancer Treatment Tools and Advancements from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What’s the latest in prostate cancer treatment tools and advancements? Dr. Heather Cheng from Seattle Cancer Care Alliance shares information about areas of prostate cancer research that have experienced recent advancements.

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What Is the PROMISE Study for Prostate Cancer Patients?


Transcript:

Dr. Heather Cheng:

I think it’s a really exciting time. I think there are a lot of advancements throughout prostate cancer. I think one area of importance is early detection, but we also have newer imaging platforms, meaning the way, and we can discover where the prostate cancer is, is advancing through new types of PET scans that we didn’t previously have. And then my own kind of research which is near and dear to my heart is talking about genetics and what we have learned about the genetics of the risk of prostate cancer, but also how the genetics of the cancer itself, which sometimes is inherited, and sometimes isn’t can help us plan for better treatments for patients.

Understanding New Targeted Therapies for Prostate Cancer

Understanding New Targeted Therapies for Prostate Cancer from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Which prostate cancer therapies are experts excited about? Dr. Heather Cheng from Seattle Cancer Care Alliance shares information about recent treatment advancements and how the therapies are utilized to help provide optimal prostate cancer care.

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Transcript:

Sherea Cary:

So, Dr. Cheng, share with us some of the new treatments that you and your colleagues are excited about? 

Dr. Heather Cheng:

Thank you. So I am a medical oncologist, I specialize in genetics, most of my patients have more advanced prostate cancer, meaning they have had surgery to remove their prostate, but then their cancer continued to grow or that they have radiation and their cancer continued to grow, and we are…then looking at treatments that are medical, and by that I mean they are given through a pill, or they’re given and through an injection and they travel throughout the body and treat the cancer…wherever the cancer is.

And I think what I get very excited about is that we have new targeted therapies, and by that I mean some of my patients to have certain mutations in their cancers or DNA changes in their cancer, have access to newer treatments like a pill, for example, called in a family called PARP inhibitor, that are really especially effective against cancers that have that type of mutation. So can’t we learn about this whether it’s a good fit or whether that person’s cancer might especially be well treated by that drug by doing DNA sequencing of the cancer or DNA sequencing of that person’s DNA, inherited DNA. So, both of those can give us clues about this kind of special treatment toolboxes that I get very excited about, and so I think that’s the frontier in oncology, but also in prostate cancer as well.

Prostate Cancer Genetic Testing and Family Testing Guidelines

Prostate Cancer Genetic Testing and Family Testing Guidelines from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What do patients need to know about prostate cancer genetic testing? Dr. Heather Cheng from Seattle Cancer Care Alliance shares information about genetic testing, testing guidelines for those with a family history of prostate cancer, genetic counseling, and when it’s important to share family medical history.

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Transcript:

Sherea Cary:

Is it easy to get the genetic testing, and if you have a first-degree relative, if you had a father who had prostate cancer and your son, is it easy for them to get the testing, and do you recommend it?

Dr. Heather Cheng:

Yeah, I think that’s a question that I think it’s becoming easier, it is something that I think it’s important for people to understand what it can and cannot do, so if there is a strong family history of prostate cancer, for example, it is best to start with the person in the family who has cancer, if we were talking about genetic testing, if that’s possible. If it’s possible, testing that person, because if they have that marker, then we’re more confident that that’s important for the family, it’s sort of…if that person doesn’t have it, then it’s much less likely that the children or the relatives who don’t have cancer will have it. So I guess thinking about the person who has cancer and then also sharing with the family, sharing what the doctor is a family history of cancer.

But I guess one of the things that’s really interesting and I would guess, I would say challenging but exciting in the field, is that historically, we’ve had a reliance, or we’ve needed to do genetic testing through genetic counselors. And genetic counselors are professionally trained individuals who can answer questions about genetics, and sometimes patients or persons, people have a lot of questions, maybe they are not sure they want to do it, and so if they’re not sure that it’s important to get them the information so they can understand what the testing is about and then feel good about proceeding with testing. I think there’s a lot of value to knowing about somebody’s genetics, but there can be questions and concerns, and so we want to make sure every person has the chance to do that.

We have studies, and more and more, I think there is availability of genetic testing and people can do genetic testing through blood test or a saliva test, and the other thing that’s really important to understand is that there’s kind of two major classes of genetic testing, I would say, one is what I would call recreational for fun, and those are tests like 23andMe or Ancestry.com, where you’re trying to maybe you pay some amount of money and you want to know where in the world your relatives are from. That’s more for fun, it’s not really useful for medical purposes, if you’re thinking about genetic testing for how to manage your medical care, you might want to talk to your doctor about it, but there’s a different set of tests that are really medical-grade, and they shouldn’t be confused with each other because they have really different purposes. One is more recreational and one is, we need the quality to be much higher because we’re gonna use this information for your care, and we want to make sure is the sort of standards are a lot higher, and so for example, I have a study with my colleague, Dr. Paller at Johns Hopkins, where we were offering then we’ve met any type of prostate cancer, so any history of prostate cancer, and they don’t necessarily have to have a family history of cancer, but we would ask them about that, and if they’re interested in participating, then they get mailed, they can enroll at prostate cancer promise dot org, and then they are mailed us a Levite, and that test is a medical grade test that’s not one of the recreational tests, that one is, it is covered free of cost, so there’s no cost to the patient, and then there’s also an email and informational hotline if there’s more questions and somebody wants to, you know, learn more about it before they proceed. So that’s one way that we’re trying to expand the access of genetic testing to patients and their families.

Sherea Cary:

I have one more question. When we talk about family history, does that mean we have to have one or two generations or just one generation, how many generations qualify for a family history?

Dr. Heather Cheng:

Yeah, that’s a great question. I think a couple of important points. So, family history is really the available information that you have, and sometimes people have a lot of information about multiple generations, and sometimes they don’t, and I think whatever you have is important, and if you don’t have all of it…that’s okay, but the important things to think about are, do you know about any family history of prostate cancer, but…that should be on both sides of the family. Sometimes people will think, “Oh, if it’s only on my father’s side, should I only think about it on my father’s side because it’s prostate cancer” which is a male cancer. But actually, it’s really important to ask about both sides, because maybe your mom’s dad had prostate cancer, or maybe your mom’s brother had prostate cancer, that’s also really important to know about, and then some of the other cancers are also really important, such as is their breast cancer and the family, and is it on the mom’s side or the dad’s side? And if it’s known, kinda how old was the person when they had that cancer, where they’re in their 50s or where are they’re in their 80s.

So those kinds of things, if it’s known and many people don’t know all of these details, then that’s okay, but if you do know it, then it’s important to share it. And I think sometimes there are relatives who are a little less comfortable talking about their health. But if you think if there’s a culture of saying, “This information might help my kids or my grandkids to share that with their doctors and then think about their own cancer screening more proactively,” then maybe that will be an incentive to sort of open up those dialogues, I know sometimes it’s hard to talk about cancer diagnosis, but it can be life-saving.

How Is Genetic Information Used for Prostate Cancer Treatment?

How Is Genetic Information Used for Prostate Cancer Treatment? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Prostate cancer can impact patients differently depending on their risk group. Dr. Heather Cheng from Seattle Cancer Care Alliance explains how genetic information is used in prostate cancer treatment and other factors that can impact patient outcomes.

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What Is the PROMISE Study for Prostate Cancer Patients?


Transcript:

Sherea Cary:

Can you speak to how you and your colleagues are using genetic information to help with the treatment and understanding prostate cancer for different risk groups?

Dr. Heather Cheng:

Yeah, thank you that…that’s something that I think is following the lines of this idea of precision oncology or tailoring. Tailoring people’s management, either if they don’t have cancer and we’re worried about the risk of cancer, we can use genetic markers that we can test from saliva or blood to help understand that person’s risk of prostate cancer better, and in some cases, there are some families where there are markers or genes that run in the families that might increase the risk of developing prostate cancer, but also sometimes the same genes are increased the risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer, and if they’re present, then it’s important to think about knowing that, getting that information, because then there are strategies that we can use to find it earlier and to treat it more aggressively and hopefully have much better outcomes in a much better likelihood of curing prostate cancer. But then also the other related cancer, so for men, this is really important because we haven’t previously been thinking about it in the same way, but that’s one example of how genetics can affect the thinking about the risk of prostate cancer. We know that Black men have a higher risk of prostate cancer to begin with, and we were beginning to understand why that might be.

Some of it may be genetic, some of it may be access to healthcare and knowledge, which we’re trying to help disseminate the knowledge here, and then sometimes it’s care delivery, so we want to focus on all of those things, but genetics are part of that.

What Are PSA and PSMA?

What Are PSA and PSMA? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Prostate cancer experts use PSA and PSMA tests in different ways in diagnosis and treatment.  Dr. Heather Cheng from Seattle Cancer Care Alliance explains what PSA and PSMA measure and how the tests are used in prostate cancer care.

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Transcript:

Sherea Cary:

What’s the prostate-specific antigen?

Dr. Heather Cheng:

Yes, that’s a great question. So the prostate-specific antigen is basically a protein marker or something that is detected in the blood that is made by the prostate and can help us figure out if it’s too high, whether somebody might have prostate cancer actually. It can be useful to figure out who has prostate cancer, who doesn’t, but it’s more useful in helping when somebody has a prostate cancer diagnosis to help monitor what is going on with the disease, is the treatment working, is the treatment not working, and in that situation, it’s especially useful, it can be a little tricky, and the distinguishing between who has cancer, who doesn’t it kind of gets a B-, it’s the better than what we have, but it sort of is a little tricky.

Sherea Cary:

Okay. So…what is prostate-specific membrane antigen?

Dr. Heather Cheng:

Yeah, so prostate-specific membrane antigen is similar to prostate-specific antigen, except for that it sits on the outside of cells that are prostate-related, or prostate cancer cells, or prostate, sometimes normal prostate cells, but it’s really useful now when people have had treatment for their prostate such as surgery to remove their prostate, but maybe their PSA or that prostate-specific member and antigen test and their blood is starting to go up, and that makes us concern that there is more cancer there, and so then we can do scans to see where is the…where in the body are the cells that express prostate-specific membrane antigen. So, kind of think about it as like a tag on the outside of the cell that says, “Hey, I’m kind of prostate-related, and so we can look in the body for cells that have that marker, the other reason it’s important is because we now have treatments that are targeted, they’re kind of smart bonds where they deliver radiation to cells that have that marker…that prostate-specific membrane antigen. So, it’s exciting for two reasons, one is to find out where the cancer might be, and the second is, if we know where it is, can we deliver treatment just to those areas and not to the healthy cells.

Should Prostate Cancer Patients and Families Keep Using Telemedicine?

Should Prostate Cancer Patients and Families Keep Using Telemedicine? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

 Prostate cancer patients can still utilize telemedicine after COVID-19 restrictions have lessened. Dr. Heather Cheng from Seattle Cancer Care Alliance shares information about situations when telemedicine visits can be helpful for patients.

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What Is the PROMISE Study for Prostate Cancer Patients?


Transcript:

Sherea Cary:

Dr. Cheng, now that telemedicine has broader applications, should prostate cancer patients and families keep telemedicine in their toolbox post-COVID?

Dr. Heather Cheng:

Yes, I actually think it’s one of the…telemedicine, in general, is one of the silver linings of COVID, I think from a member of the medical community, we had to learn…actually, I was already doing some telemedicine, limited telemedicine before COVID hit. But I do think for patients who have access to an Internet or a smartphone and are able to do their visits, it is really decreasing the burden on them in terms of how much time they have to take off work to go to their medical appointments, I think there are times when patients still have to go into clinic, for example, to get treatment, but a lot of times, at least for prostate cancer patients, they can have their PSA that prostate-specific antigen blood test, checked in a lab close to their home, and then you know, at a time that’s convenient to them. And then I can do a telehealth with them later, so that they don’t have to take as much time off work. And so, I think in some cases it’s really, really made it easier for patients, although there are still times when we do need to see them in person, it’s just really nice to have that as an option.

So, I really do think that’s a really good thing, and I hope that the medical community and patients can continue to benefit from that. The other time when it’s helpful is for second opinions and consultation, so this is also really important for patients to know about it, is the first time they’re making a big decision about their treatment and they’re not 100 percent sure maybe they want to get us that an opinion, just to make sure that other doctors agree and that they get another chance to hear the treatment options explained in a different way. And I see a lot of patients for second opinions just to kind of get more confidence, maybe they’ll still decide to get treatment with their local oncologist, because it’s easier closer to home and less disruptive than to come to see us in Seattle. But it still gives them more confidence that they’re going down the right treatment path, so I think telemedicine also makes that a lot easier for patients as well.