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.
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 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 going to 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.
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.