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

What does it mean to thrive with advanced prostate cancer? Dr. Rana McKay discusses the goals of advanced prostate cancer care, reviews current and emerging treatment options, and shares advice for playing an active role in healthcare decisions.
 
Dr. Rana McKay is a medical oncologist at UC San Diego Health and an associate professor in the Department of Medicine at the UC San Diego School of Medicine. Learn more about Dr. McKay, here.
 
 

Katherine Banwell:    

Hello and welcome. I’m Katherine Banwell, your host for today’s program. Today we’re going to focus on how patients can aim to live and thrive with advanced prostate cancer. We’re going to discuss treatment goals and the role patients can play in making key 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. Well let’s meet our guests today. Joining me is Dr. Rana McKay. Dr. McKay, welcome. Would you please introduce yourself?

Dr. Rana McKay:     

Of course. Thank you so much for having me. My name is Rana McKay and I’m a GU medical oncologist at the University of California San Diego.  

Katherine Banwell:    

Excellent. Thanks so much for taking time out of your schedule to join us. Since this webinar is part of PEN’s Thrive series, I’d like to ask you from your perspective, what do you think it means to thrive with advanced prostate cancer?

Dr. Rana McKay:        

That’s a very good question and I think that’s what um, a lot of patients want to actually you know, do in their day-to-day existence. I think it means that they are combatting their disease. They’re taking a proactive role in um, you know, uh tackling um, their illness. They um, are uh, attentive to sort of doing the activities of daily living that really bring them joy and satisfaction and happiness and setting up a treatment plan that is a mutually agreed upon treatment plan with their clinician. That they have buy-in on. That their caregivers have buy-in on. That allows them to do the things that they love to do while keeping their cancer at bay.

Katherine Banwell:    

Okay. Thank you for sharing your insights. Before we move onto treatment, I mentioned that this webinar is focused on advanced prostate cancer. What does it mean for prostate cancer to be considered advanced?

Dr. Rana McKay:        

So, generally what that means is that the cancer may have spread outside of the body – outside of prostate to other parts of the body such as the bone or the lymph nodes which is a common location where prostate cancer um, uh, can go. Additionally, it may mean that the cancer may have come back after um, it was initially treated with an intent um, to cure um, a patient. But then you know the PSA demonstrates um, that you know, there’s a rise in the PSA and the cancer is recurrent.

Katherine Banwell:    

As you mentioned uh, appropriate treatment is part of thriving. We’re going to talk about treatment approaches. But first, how would you define treatment goals?

Dr. Rana McKay:       

So, you know when I look at defining treatment goals it’s focusing on what do we wanna achieve from the standpoint of the cancer? Meaning, you know, what are objectives that are associated with patients living longer?

And then what are objectives um and strategies that we can set-up to make sure that patients are living better? So, I think the treatments are basically set-up to basically help you achieve those two goals. What can we do to help you live longer and feel better?

Katherine Banwell:    

Yeah. Well, let’s walk through the types of treatments that are used today to treat advanced prostate cancer. What are the treatment causes and who are they appropriate for? Let’s start with surgery, for instance.

Dr. Rana McKay:       

So, surgery is something that’s utilized uh, early on when people are diagnosed with cancer. It tends to be utilized when the cancer has not necessarily spread to other parts of the body but is still localized within the prostate itself or maybe there’s just some little bit of breakthrough in the capsule. Sometimes it can be used in people who have involvement of the prostate cancer in the lymph nodes. But it’s generally not utilized in people who have cancer that’s spread to other parts of the body.

Katherine Banwell:    

Mm-hmm. What about other treatment classes? What are they?

Dr. Rana McKay: 

So, radiation can also be utilized. Radiation is a treatment modality that can be used for people with localized disease and um, also it can be utilized for people with advanced disease to treat the primary tumor.

Additionally radiation therapy can be used to help treat symptoms um, if there’s a bone lesion causing pain or other areas that are causing discomfort. Sometimes radiation to those areas um, can um, mitigate pain. When I think about the treatment classes for prostate cancer um, they generally break down into several categories. The first um, um, most predominant category is the hormonal therapy category. Hormonal therapies are really the backbone of treatment for men with prostate cancer and they include the more traditional hormonal therapies that really work to just drop testosterone. So, just LRH – L – LRHA agonists and antagonists and also, they include um, newer hormonal therapies in the form of pills that really target um, strategies at also affecting testosterone function and testosterone production. Another class is also the chemotherapy agents. There are two FDA approved chemotherapies for prostate cancer that are life prolonging and um, uh there’s a certain role for uh, chemotherapy for people with advanced disease.

There’s also immunotherapy that can be utilized. Um, there’s a um, uh, vaccine therapy that’s actually one of the first uh, FDA vaccines for any solid tumor that’s proving in prostate cancer that can be utilized. There’s also radio pharmaceuticals.

So, these are specific agents that deliver um, a bits of radiation to specific areas. Whether it be radium 223 which targets the bone or the newest radio pharmaceutical, which was approved called uh, lutecium PSMA that um, basically delivers beta-radiation to little – sites of PSMA expressing cancer cells and the last category that I would highlight is the category of targeted therapy. There are uh, two targeted therapies for prostate cancer for patients who have like genomic alterations. Those include the drugs olaparib and rucaparib. So, as you can see there’s a wide spectrum of drugs that can be utilized to really keep this disease at bay.  

Katherine Banwell:    

Dr. McKay, for these treatment classes, what can patients expect as far as side effects?

Dr. Rana McKay:       

Absolutely. So, I think side effects – discussing side effects is a really important part of the discussion for selecting any one given therapy and in general, I think um, when we talk about the hormonal therapies one of the side effects that people can get is largely fatigue.

But a lot of the symptoms are related to low testosterone. And so, that may mean muscle loss, bone loss, um, you know, uh, hot flashes, um, fatigue, decrease libido, um… So, you those are things to consider with hormonal therapies. With the chemotherapies, I think the big ones we worry about are fatigue, risk of infection, um blood counts dropping a little bit, people getting tired, numbness and tingling in the hands and feet can occur, some swelling in the legs are common side effects for chemotherapy agents. With regards to the um, uh, immunotherapy with the vaccine therapy, it actually tends to be a fairly well tolerated treatment. Maybe some fatigue, rarely some dizziness or some lip – lip sensitivity, numbness with the – the process of kind of collecting the cells. But it actually tends to be fairly well tolerated.

The um, targeted therapies can cause fatigue. They can cause the blood counts to drop and can impact bone marrow function. There can be sometimes GI side effects. Nausea, um, rash, um and then the immune therapy, the pembrolizumab, that is FDA approved sometimes that can cause immune related adverse events which is kind of over activation of the immune system developing you know, what I’d call it as the itises. Colitis or pneumonitis which is inflammation of various organs and symptoms related to wherever that may be.

Katherine Banwell:    

When should a patient consider a clinical trial as a treatment option?

Dr. Rana McKay:        

So, I generally think that a patient should consider a clinical trial at almost every juncture that a – a clinical decision is being made. I think sometimes there’s this misperception that, “Oh. Clinical trials should only be utilized when I don’t have any other options.” Where in fact I would say clinical trials should be an option to discuss every single time a treatment is being changed. Um, because you know the ultimately the goal is to make sure patients are as I said, living longer and living better and um, you know, making sure that clinical trials are an option on the table at every juncture is really a key step in that process.

Katherine Banwell:    

What are the benefits of being part of a clinical trial?

Dr. Rana McKay:       

So, I think there’s a lot of benefits. I think um, you know, uh for patients with advanced disease it may provide access to drugs that they otherwise not necessarily have access to.

Um, so the standard of care therapies you know, we can prescribe those at any juncture. They’re standard of care. But clinical trials um, really offer an opportunity to experiment with a uh, uh another agent um, and doesn’t necessarily take away from the standard of care options.

I think um, the other thing is you know, I think a lot of patients with advanced prostate cancer, they um, they – want to give back to the community. They want to leave a legacy. They want to contribute to the science. They wanna be a part of that mission to make tomorrow better than today for men with prostate cancer and I think participating in clinical trials can really help achieve that goal. Um, and also benefit the individual as well.

Katherine Banwell:    

What about emerging treatments? Are there any that patients should know about?

Dr. Rana McKay:       

Absolutely. So, there’s a lot of treatments that I think are currently undergoing extensive testing.

There’s um, additional uh, targeted therapies um, for example CDK46 inhibitors that are being tested broadly in the um, um hormone resistant space and the newly diagnosed setting. Um, there’s um, also AKT inhibitors. There are other targeted therapies that are being tested. There’s novel hormonal treatments that target resistant pathways like the antigen receptor degraders. There’s a slew of immunotherapy options um, cell therapy, bi-specific antibodies that are also being tested. So, there’s a lot of really exciting and novel treatments that are looking at overcoming resistance for people with advanced disease.

Katherine Banwell:    

Hm. Do you recommend that men with advanced prostate cancer get the COVID vaccines and the boosters?

Dr. Rana McKay:       

Very good question and in general, I do recommend the vaccines. Especially for patients with advanced disease and those that are on therapy. Um, several studies have demonstrated that patients with cancer are at increased risk of having complications related to COVID and particularly patients that are on active treatment with cancer are at even greater riskSo, um, I would definitely recommend vaccination as a preventative strategy to prevent really complications related to COVID.

Katherine Banwell:    

Mm-hmm. Thanks, Dr. McKay. That’s helpful information. Since prostate cancer affects men differently. Let’s review what factors could impact which treatment is right for their individual disease. How about we start with symptoms?

Dr. Rana McKay: 

So, yeah. I mean absolutely. I think symptoms are definitely something that plays into effect.

Um, sometimes when patients are first diagnosed, they may not have symptoms. But, you know, boney pain. Um, Symptoms of urinary obstruction. You know, there’s specific um, uh, treatments and uh, strategies that we can deploy to help with those kinds of things. Um, you know other factors that I think I – we take into account when we’re making decisions about which agent should any one patient receive is where are there sites of metastases? Um, is there disease just in the bones and lymph nodes or are there other organs involved? Um, what’s the genomic make-up of the tumor? Um, there are certain treatments that we would utilize if someone had a certain specific you know, uh genetic make-up for their tumor. You know, other things that are really important are what kind of drugs has the patient seen before or has that tumor been exposed to? Because that also helps us strategize for what to give them in the future.

Katherine Banwell:    

Do you take into consideration the patient’s comorbidities and their age and overall health? Things like that? 

Dr. Rana McKay: 

Absolutely. Yeah. I think we need to absolute take that in account. I think – I think age is one thing. But I think functional status is um, just as – as important as the actual number itself because people are very different regarding um,  the things that they can do at various uh, age limits and so, that absolutely takes into account weighing the side effects of any given therapy and how that may interact with someone’s existing comorbidities and it may be something that we have to work with a team of other doctors to basically make sure that there is comprehensive, well-rounded care for any one patient.

For example, some therapies may increase the risk of hyper-tension or increase the risk of volume overload and so, if somebody has issues with that already we may have them see a cardiologist so we can make sure that um, you know, we’re kind of addressing the totality of the patient experience. 

Katherine Banwell:    

What do you mean by volume overload?

Dr. Rana McKay: 

Uh, volume overload I mean if they’ve got too much fluid on board. So, maybe if they have heart failure or something like that and we have a therapy that’s gonna cause them to retain fluid. And so then, we would have to work with a cardiologist to make sure that they don’t run into issues.

Katherine Banwell:    

Right. That makes sense. What are the common symptoms of advanced prostate cancer?

Dr. Rana McKay: 

So, um, you know, I would probably say there common symptoms and just because somebody has these symptoms doesn’t mean they have prostate cancer. But fatigue, weight loss, urinary symptoms, trouble urinating, you know, benign prostatic atrophy is one of the most common symptoms or most common conditions in men and um –

Katherine Banwell:    

What does that mean?

Dr. Rana McKay: 

Um, so sort of benign enlargement of the prostate. Um, you know that’s a common phenomenon that happens with age and it can affect somebody’s ability to urinate.

Um, but um you know uh, sometimes with prostate cancer it can also impact somebody’s ability to urinate. Their stream, their flow. Um, they may have rectal discomfort. They may feel tired, boney pains. Usually, I tell patients you know persistent progressive symptoms that are just you know not going away, not getting better. Those need to be looked at by a physician to evaluate further. 

Katherine Banwell:    

Mm-hmm. You mentioned genetic mutations. Should patients advocate for genetic testing if they haven’t had it already?

Dr. Rana McKay: 

Um, it all depends on uh, what kind of uh, where they are in the process. So, for most men who have advanced disease, they should undergo genetic testing of both their tumor, and it is also recommended to do hereditary testing for patients who have advanced disease. Um, and that information may not necessarily be utilized at the exact time that the test is done.

But it may be utilized down the road for treatment options at a later time point. Um…

Katherine Banwell:    

Mm-hmm. Once a man is undergoing treatment for advanced prostate cancer how are they monitored to see if it’s actually working?

Dr. Rana McKay: 

So, a lot of ways. So, one is by just you know, visiting with the patient. Making sure that their symptoms are in check. Making sure that they’re not developing new um, aches or pains that are worrisome. It’s by checking their labs um, in addition to their organ and bone marrow function. We would check their PSA. Um, and PSA isn’t the whole story. But it is one factor that contributes to us determining whether treatment may or may not be working. It’s also doing intermittent scannings. So, um, you know, uh, CT scans of the organs, of the lymph nodes. Bone scan and now we actually have PSMA based imaging which can be integrated to help um, assess uh, where the disease is and um, not yet being utilized to assess whether something is working because we haven’t really defined the criteria there.

But um, it can be utilized as well.

Katherine Banwell:    

Mm-hmm. Dr. McKay, how would you define precision or personalized medicine and how close are we getting to personalized medicine for advanced prostate cancer?

Dr. Rana McKay: 

Yeah. So, what I – how I define it is the right treatment for the right patient at the right time. It’s basically you know, based off of somebody’s genomic profile of their tumor and ideally that genomic profiling is done close to the time that that treatment is being initiated. So, within six months or twelve months of somebody starting a given therapy we understand the genetic make-up of the tumor. The tumor has you know, for example a BRCA1 alteration and we know that olaparib is a drug that can be utilized and has demonstrated efficacy for people that have that mutation and then we would use that agent. So, it’s basically trying to um, personalize therapy based on the genomic information of that tumor.

And um, I think we are getting there. There are actually trials now that are being launched that are bio-marker driven trials with bio-marker selected therapies for patients based on -off of not just DNA but also RNA to help with um, allocating a given therapy.   

Katherine Banwell:    

What do you feel are the common obstacles to care for a man with advanced prostate cancer?

Dr. Rana McKay: 

So, I think that there can be a lot of obstacles with regards to um, you know, comprehensiveness of the care. You know it’s one thing to sort of, “Okay. This is the next therapy to treat you with.” But there’s a lot of side effects that can happen with any one given therapy and ensuring that there is open dialogue between um, uh a man and his – his clinician and caregivers.

You know, I think that that can sometimes be a hurdle. Like that open communication can be so important. It’s not just about picking the next best drug but it’s ensuring that there’s sort of comprehensiveness in care. I think a lot of um, you know, patients they may not necessarily know and they’re really kind of dependent on their clinician to sort of go through the compendia of options that may be available and why one may be better than the other for any one given scenario. So, I think it’s like that shared decision-making, that open dialogue.

Um, you know, I think also thinking about advocacy networks, I think um, you know, I can say things until I’m blue in the face like this is what being on ADT feels like. But I think sometimes actually connecting with another patient whose gone through the same experience who can kind of weigh in from the patient perspective like what it actually feels like, I think is not to say a hurdle. But I think we can do a better job as a medical community of making those networking connections available for patients so they can be a part of a broader community of individuals like them going through the same thing they’re going through.

Katherine Banwell:    

Yeah. It helps to know that there are others going through exactly what you’re going through or similar symptoms. We received a patient question prior to the program. What is the difference between my PSA level and Gleason score?     

Dr. Rana McKay: 

Yeah. So, very good question. So, Gleason score is something that is determined based off a pathologic assessment. So, it’s basically you know, a biopsy is done from the prostate or the – the surgical specimen from the removal of the prostate is looked at under the microscope and a Gleason score is based off what something looks like underneath a microscope and ideally, a Gleason score is given really only for the prostate – for tissue derived from the prostate.

So, if somebody has a bone biopsy for example or a lymph node biopsy, they’re not going to necessarily get a glycine score per se. It’s been – been validated from the prostate itself and ideally, also, an untreated prostate. So, if somebody has you know had radiation therapy and then has a biopsy, the Gleason score there is – there should not necessarily be a notation of what a Gleason score is. It’s really an untreated prostate. Now PSA is prostate specific antigen and it’s a protein that’s made from the prostate gland and it’s found in circulation. PSA doesn’t hurt any – the actual you know, molecule itself is – is innocuous. It doesn’t hurt anything. It’s just a marker of um, sometimes can be a marker of burden of disease in prostate cancer and I think sometimes we as clinicians do you know, you know a disservice to some patients because I think we fixate – we can fixate a lot on PSA.

But PSA is not the whole story and it’s one factor of several factors that we take into account in determining whether someone needs treatment or whether a treatment is working or not working.

Katherine Banwell:    

Why should patients feel confident using their voice in partnering in their care? Do you have any advice?

Dr. Rana McKay: 

Um, I mean it’s – it’s absolutely important for patients to share their perspective and for there to be shared decision making at every single juncture along the way. Even around decisions to not treat. So, you know, I think it’s a lot of um – there’s a lot of grays in prostate cancer and a lot of art in deciding what treatment to do and at what specific time and for any given patient given the values that that patient brings to the table, they may come back with a different decision compared to another patient. So, without the patient you know voicing what their values are it’s impossible to make a treatment decision.

So, it is so critically important to have that open communication with your clinician.

Katherine Banwell:    

So, in addition to that – in conjunction with that, should men diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer consider a second opinion or consulting with a specialist?

Dr. Rana McKay: 

I think it’s always a great idea to get a second opinion. Um, you know, I think that um, you know, it will only empower individuals um, when they seek sort of a second opinion to either confirm um what their physician has already told them and then they have reassurance that they’re on the right path or maybe provide some new um, novel insights that they can take into consideration and just think about how that could be applied to them. So, you know, I think that a second opinion is always really valuable.

I will balance that by saying um, sometimes it can be detrimental if there’s lots of opinions because I will say that coming to a consensus when there’s lots of different specialists that are involved, and everybody makes the soup a little bit differently –

Katherine Banwell:    

Yeah.

Dr. Rana McKay: 

Sometimes that I think that can actually um, hurt patients in being able to actually come to a decision because then they’re like, “I don’t know what decision to make. This person said do this. This person said do that. This person said do that.” Um, and so that can sometimes be um, detrimental. But a second opinion, I do always encourage it. I do always value it. But I always want the patient to bring it back to me so I can share with them and discuss, “Okay. I understand. This is why x said X-Y-Z. This still aligns. This still doesn’t.” They need a quarterback like you know, it’s one thing to sort of get second opinions. But I think every man with prostate cancer should have a quarterback that’s driving their care and advocating for them.

Katherine Banwell:    

Yeah. How can patients find specialists near them?

Dr. Rana McKay: 

So, um, I will say that they are national comprehensive cancer institutes. They’re all across the country in rural areas and not. I think um, you know finding the closest NCI designated comprehensive cancer center close to you is probably a good place to start and identifying who is seeing um patients with genetic urinary malignancies or prostate cancer at that facility is a good place. I think the prostate cancer foundation is an excellent advocacy group for patients with prostate cancer. They have a tremendous amount of resources um, to help connect patients with um, clinicians, and other resources um, in their journey with cancer.

Katherine Banwell:    

How can caregivers best support their loved ones?

Dr. Rana McKay: 

So, I think being present is one of the first things. Um, you know, I think that uh, um, you know, uh, being you know, supportive, being present.

Like you know, attending the doctor – doctor’s visits. It doesn’t necessarily have to be every single doctor visit. But those critical doctor visits where um, you know clinical decisions are being made. I think it’s really important also um, to there may be some hesitancy on the part of patients to sometimes be open or vocal with their clinicians about various aspects of what they may be experiencing at home, or they may be undermining or sort of – I think caregivers can help in sort of giving an outsider’s perspective. “Well, this is how things are going at home,” and “You know this is how things are,” and “These are the things that we value and we’re gonna go on this family trip,” and “This is a big-ticket item for us. So, how can we work around planning a treatment plan that allows us to do that?” So, I think it’s really important.

Katherine Banwell:    

ASCO was held in June. Is there news from the conference that patients should know about?

Dr. Rana McKay:        

Yeah. So, I think some of the biggest therapies in prostate cancer that was one of the newest therapies that was just FDA approved is um, Lutetium PSMA. It’s um, a radioligand therapy that targets specifically PSMA expressing cells. Um It delivers a little bit of beta radiation to those cells. Um, that therapy was approved this past Spring and there highlights at ASCO about the utility of this therapy. Um, and again, there’s a series of novel compounds that are being tested in prostate cancer not yet ready for prime time but a lot of exciting work that’s being done um, to try to get new drugs that work better for our patients.

Katherine Banwell:    

Mm-hmm. Going back to ASCO and new developments, how can patients stay informed about research developments like – like these that happen at ASCO.

Dr. Rana McKay:

So, very – very good. I think there’s a lot of networks for people with prostate cancer. I think one like I mentioned, the prostate cancer foundation it’s a wonderful community. Um, that really focuses on making sure that up to date, you know, uh, evidence-based data is uh, distributed to patients in a manner that is – that makes sense. That’s there’s not a lot of medical jargon and so I think that the PCF is really a wonderful resource. Uh, ASCO itself also has um, you know patient interfacing you know, materials through their website.

American Cancer Society does as well. Um, the American Cancer Society can also be a wonderful resource for patients that are newly diagnosed or going through treatment.

Katherine Banwell:    

Mm. Before we end the program, Dr. McKay, I wanted to ask. Are you hopeful that men can thrive with advanced prostate cancer?

Dr. Rana McKay:       

Oh, I am absolutely hopeful that they can thrive. I mean that is um, the name of the game and I think there’s a lot of um, uh, people who can look to for motivation.

Um, uh, to basically show that despite treatment, despite having advanced disease patients can thrive and continue doing all of the things that they love that give them joy and satisfaction in their lives.

Katherine Banwell:    

It seems like there’s a lot of progress and hope in the field which is good. Dr. McKay thank you so much for taking the time to join us today.

Dr. Rana McKay:       

Of course. My pleasure.

Katherine Banwell:    

And thank you to all of our partners. To learn more about prostate cancer and to get tools to help you become a proactive patient, visit powerfulpatients.org. I’m Katherine Banwell. Thanks so much for joining us today.

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.

Download Guide

See More from Engage Prostate Cancer

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Using Your Voice to Partner in Your Prostate Cancer Treatment Decisions


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 the Role of AI in Telemedicine for MPNs?

What Is the Role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Telemedicine for MPNs? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

How does artificial intelligence (AI) fit into the myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN) care toolbox? Dr. Kristen Pettit from Rogel Cancer Center explains the current role of AI, her hopes for the future of MPN care, and what she considers the ideal model for MPN care.

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Transcript:

Dr. Kristen Pettit:

I think the role of artificial intelligence and telemedicine in MPN fields is going to be evolving over the next few years. I think one thing that will be very interesting that I’m very interested in seeing is whether we’re able to incorporate things like data from wearable devices, for example, like your Apple Watch or those sorts of devices directly into your healthcare to be able to monitor you on a more continuous basis and virtually, I think more things of that nature will be coming over the next couple of years.

I think that incorporating telemedicine into MPN monitoring is a relatively safe thing to do for most patients, very rarely things will come up in an in-person visit that might not have been reported or caught on a telemedicine visit, for example, slight changes in spleen size that we may be able to feel in the office that might not be symptomatic to the patient at home or might not be noticed at home could happen. Other things like weight loss that a person might not necessarily have noticed at home, but that we would hopefully pick up on it.

An office visit might be another thing to think about, but both of these situations, I think are relatively uncommon, I think the most important thing is for a patient and their family members to know their body, know their symptoms, keep an eye out for any changes, while they’re at home, and as long as that’s being done, really, I think telemedicine is relatively safe to incorporate in MPN care. Ideally, I think that would be done sort of intermittently or alternating between virtual visits and in-person visits with an individual patient.

How Does Artificial Intelligence (AI) Improve MPN Patient Care?

How Does Artificial Intelligence (AI) Improve MPN Patient Care? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN) patients can benefit from increased use of artificial intelligence (AI) in their care. Watch to learn about patient care improvements from AI, what it means for MPN patients, and potential future developments in AI.

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Transcript:

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in telemedicine is ever expanding. In telemedicine visits, AI can provide translations for non-native English speakers, more efficient analysis of imaging and other tests, use algorithms to better predict staffing levels for improved patient care, and much more.

The increased use of artificial intelligence translates to improved care for MPN patients. Patient health can be monitored more frequently, more time can be spent with each patient, and tests can be evaluated more accurately through analysis by both providers and AI. These benefits will result in monitoring of treatment and symptoms more often for optimal patient care.

As artificial intelligence continues to evolve, patients are apt to see even more treatment advancements and personalized care. Quality of life should improve as MPN specialists can spend more time learning about the latest MPN treatment advancements and to focus more on patient health outcomes.

Please remember to ask your healthcare team what may be right for you.

Should MPN Patients and Their Families Continue Telemedicine?

Should MPN Patients and Their Families Continue Telemedicine? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Can myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN) patients still get value from telemedicine? Dr. Kristen Pettit from Rogel Cancer Center explains some of the pros and cons of telemedicine visits and ways to optimize MPN patient care.

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Transcript:

Dr. Kristen Pettit:

I think telemedicine has been one of the few good things to come out of the COVID era. There are pros and cons, certainly, some pros are that patients can have increased access to their physicians and their medical teams, particularly the MPN specialty centers that might not be right in their backyard. It’s great, it’s a great way to be able to stay in touch with an MPN specialist.

The less travel, less waiting in a waiting room. Those are all great things, the cons, the downsides to keep in mind are that virtually we can’t feel for spleens, so it’s difficult to tell if the spleen is starting to get enlarged. There can also be some logistical challenges getting blood counts drawn and interpreted before a telehealth visit. But with those minor challenges, I think telemedicine is here to stay, and I think it’s an important part of the care for patients with MPNs. 

Remote monitoring is very important for patients with MPNs, really the most important thing, in my opinion, for patients with MPNs being monitored over time is for them to keep an eye on their symptoms over time, watching for any changes in their bodies that they may feel as far as their spleens feeling more enlarged or feeling more full, or losing weight unexpectedly, feeling more fatigued, any of their MPN symptoms getting worse. All of those are easy to monitor at home, virtually, and to report back to your physician over telehealth or at routine visits.

What Does Teleoncology Mean for Myeloproliferative Care?

What Does Teleoncology Mean for Myeloproliferative Care? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

 Myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN) patients can benefit from various aspects of teleoncology. Watch to learn about teleoncology, benefits for MPN patients, and potential future developments with teleoncology.

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Transcript:

Teleoncology carries out clinical oncology remotely and can cover all aspects of oncology care including cancer diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up phases for patients. As with other cancer types, MPN patients can benefit from many aspects of teleoncology.  

Teleoncology is a more targeted part of telemedicine, which is especially beneficial for MPN care. Teleoncology provides more frequent monitoring of symptoms, treatment side effects, physical functions as well as easier patient access to lab tests and protecting patients from extra exposure to viruses and infection risks.

With the evolution of treatments that can now be delivered via convenient methods like wearable patches, the future of teleoncology looks promising. MPN patients will have fewer visits for their treatment and can enjoy a higher quality of life with more frequent remote check-ins with their MPN specialist.

What Does Remote Patient Monitoring Mean for MPN Patients?

What Does Remote Patient Monitoring Mean for MPN Patients? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN) patients are a patient group who already used remote patient monitoring before the COVID-19 pandemic. Watch to learn about remote patient monitoring, recent advancements for MPN patient care, and expectations for future developments from remote patient monitoring.

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Transcript:

Remote patient monitoring was already in use before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and technology improvements were fast-tracked by federal grants from the U.S. government. Telemedicine appointments and monitoring of the heart, lungs, brain, and muscles through remote technologies can be easily carried out for improved remote care.

Though remote patient monitoring of MPN patients was already in practice through periodic monitoring of blood work, advancements have been made in recent months. These improvements allow patients to visit their MPN specialist less frequently as their provider advises. While protecting patients from virus and infection risks, fewer visits save time and travel costs while also allowing optimal patient care in collaboration with their provider.  

As remote patient monitoring technologies continue to increase and improve over time, they will continue to help refine patient care. MPN patients can expect personalized care that becomes even more tailored to their needs, which will result in improved quality of life and less time in care appointments and traveling time for care appointments.

Please remember to ask your healthcare team what may be right for you.

What Do Telegenetic Consultations Mean for MPN Patients?

What Do Telegenetic Consultations Mean for MPN PAtients? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN) patients have a telegenetic consultation as another option that has emerged for the telemedicine toolbox. Watch to learn about telegenetic consultations, what they mean for MPN patients, and future developments.

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Transcript:

Telegenetic consultations are those that can be carried out via telemedicine with genetic counselors. With the rise of genetic mutations playing a factor in cancer care and treatment decisions, it’s a natural progression for telegenetic consultations to become another option in the telemedicine tool box that protects patients from exposure to viruses and potential infections and saves them valuable time, energy, and travel costs.

With personalized medicine becoming an integral part of MPN patient care that analyze genetic mutations like JAK2 mutations and MPL mutations, telegenetic consultations make sense as another part of the tools for MPN care. The future of MPN care looks brighter with these virtual care options as part of the equation.

A form of tattoos called e-skins have now emerged as part of remote health monitoring. Used for detecting physical and electrical functions including heart, muscle, and brain activity, e-skins have shown reliability in monitoring tests even under body stress situations like sweating and while consuming spicy foods.

Please remember to ask your healthcare team what may be right for you.

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.

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. 

See More from Prostate Cancer TelemEDucation

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Can Prostate Cancer Patients Rely on Telemedicine Without Risk?

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


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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Why Is Specialized Care Important in Prostate Cancer? 


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.

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.

See More from Prostate Cancer TelemEDucation

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What Are PSA and PSMA?

What Are PSA and PSMA?

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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.

November 2021 Digital Health Roundup

Fifty years of research have led to a lot of innovations. Technological advances mean that doctors are better able to monitor our health, and health and fitness apps can motivate us toward a healthier lifestyle, but studies show the benefits aren’t always equitable. In addition, more technology means more compromised data. Experts are warning governments to tighten up regulations, while others are asking for expanded and permanent access to telehealth.

Expanded Telehealth Coverage

The American Telemedicine Association (ATA) is asking the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to extend the Covid-19 public health emergency through the end of 2022, if not longer, reports healthcareitnews.com. The public health emergency has allowed for the expanded coverage of telehealth, but it is uncertain how and when the expanded coverage will end. The ATA is hoping HHS will give patients ample notification about the future of telehealth. While there has been support for the expanded telehealth rules to become permanent, Congress has not acted on that. The ATA is concerned that patients, who have become dependent on telehealth during the pandemic, will abruptly lose access to care if the public health emergency is not expanded, giving Congress time to put permanent policies in place. Read more about the ATA’s request to HHS here.

Digital Health Data

More access to care is good, but leading independent experts are warning countries to protect digital health data in order to prevent medical inequities and human rights abuses, reports ft.com. The group of experts produced a report that lists the benefits of telehealth, but also provided guidance for governments to use that would protect healthcare consumers from misuse of health data. Recommendations include increased regulations to protect children and providing equitable access through digital infrastructure. Learn more here.

The threat of healthcare data breaches is real. In 2021 more than 40 million patient records were compromised, reports healthcareitnews.com. The breaches can paralyze networks and lead to disruption of care. Find a list of 2021’s ten largest data breaches reported to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services here.

Health Apps

Technology-based health apps are more beneficial to people with higher socio-economic status, reports medicalxpress.com. Researchers found that middle and higher socio-economic health and exercise app users achieved a higher level of physical activity while users with lower socio-economic status received no clear benefits from using the apps. Researchers suggest that the findings indicate that further use and development should take into account the needs of users with lower socio-economic status to prevent inequalities among users. Find out more here.

Remote Monitoring

Doctors at Kentucky Cardiology in Lexington, Kentucky found that patients weren’t always keeping accurate records of their blood pressure at home, so they looked to technology for a solution, reports healthcareitnews.com. They contracted with a remote patient monitoring technology that automatically recorded the patient’s blood pressure results. Staff members were able to monitor the readings and contact the patient if they saw a reading that was unusual. Staff members were also notified if a patient was not taking their blood pressure. In those cases, staff members were able to contact the patient and review the how to do the readings or troubleshoot any issues. The program has been a big success and grown quickly and reached 86 percent patient engagement. Learn more about the remote monitoring program here.

National Cancer Act

Fifty years ago, the signing of the National Cancer Act of 1971 enabled fifty years of groundbreaking research and discoveries for the treatment of cancer. Many were technological innovations being highlighted by cancer.gov in celebration of the anniversary. The technologies include:

  • CRISPR, a gene-editing tool
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Telehealth
  • Cryo-EM, short for cryo-electron microscopy, a process that generates high-resolution images of how molecules behave
  • Infinium Assay, a process that analyzes genetic variations used in cancer research as well as a variety of other applications
  • Robotic Surgery

Learn more about each of these technological innovations and the National Cancer Act of 1971 here. Also, look for more about the National Cancer Act of 1971 in this month’s upcoming Notable News.

October 2021 Digital Health Roundup

The popularity of telemedicine is being embraced by insurance companies, and for now, the best place to identify skin cancer is still at the dermatologist’s office. Patients are concerned about privacy threats when it comes to technology in healthcare, and it turns out they have good reason to be. Fortunately, there are things being done to address the issue.

Privacy of Medical Records

A new survey shows that patients are concerned about privacy of medical records and the use of facial recognition technology in healthcare, reports upi.com. A large portion of the survey respondents perceive facial recognition technology as a privacy threat, but the use of the technology in healthcare has increased over the past few years as a way to prevent medical errors and provide extra security. With nearly 60 percent of respondents saying they are concerned about the security of these technologies, researchers are tasked with gaining public trust by increasing protections of healthcare information. Find more information here.

It seems that patients have reason to be concerned. Ransomware attacks are having negative effects on patient care, reports fiercehealthcare.com. A new report shows that ransomware attacks on healthcare organizations can lead to longer stays, delays in care leading to poor outcomes, and increases in patient transfers. The ransomware attacks are also linked to increased mortality rates. The report emphasizes the importance of increasing cybersecurity in healthcare to protect patients. Learn more about the report findings here.

Cybersecurity

Recognizing the cybersecurity vulnerabilities in healthcare, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released a best practices document as a resource for the healthcare industry, reports healthcareitnews.com. The document focuses on developing a cybersecurity communication strategy and offers aspects to consider in the event of a security breach. The FDA also plans to address medical device vulnerabilities so that patients who are dependent on medical devices will know what kinds of questions to ask their healthcare providers regarding the security of their devices. Get more information here and see the FDA best practices document here.

The U.S. Government is also investing in the future of information technology in public health, reports thehealthcaretechnologyreport.com. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has an initiative that will help to develop the health information technology workforce and will help to increasing the number of workers in the field from underrepresented communities. With funding from the American Rescue Plan, ten universities that serve diverse communities have cooperative agreements to build up the healthcare technology workforce over the next four years. Learn more about the initiative and the ten institutions that are participating here.

Skin Cancer App Fails

A setback for healthcare technology occurred recently when a flaw in a direct-to-consumer app used to detect skin cancer was identified at a European annual meeting of dermatology, reports medicalxpress.com. Researchers found that the app, which is available in Europe, incorrectly classified more than 60 percent of benign lesions as cancerous, and almost 18 percent of Merkel cell carcinomas and almost 23 percent of melanomas as benign. The problem appears to be that the app depends on available images to determine the status of a lesion, but there are not enough images of rare skin cancers available for better accuracy. Find more information here.

Telemedicine

If you love virtual visits to the doctor, you are in luck! Insurers are now offering new types of health coverage specifically for telemedicine, reports modernhealthcare.com. Some insurance companies have plans that require online visits for nonemergency care. The plans tend to have lower premiums and patients select a doctor for their virtual visits who can refer patients to in-person doctors within the network if needed. However, there is some concern that virtual care as the primary means of care may not be ideal. The concern is that things might get missed, like early signs of disease that a doctor would not be able to pick up on through a virtual visit. Learn more about the new type of insurance plans here.