Better Me

How This Innovative Technique Can Treat Advanced Prostate Cancer

For many men with prostate cancer, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and surgery are their main treatment options. But for some men, a newer option called precision medicine could help treat their prostate cancer.

With precision medicine, genetic testing can help doctors tailor a treatment specifically for them. It can use genetic testing in two ways:

  • Testing the person’s DNA can uncover hereditary risk factors for cancer
  • Testing the cancer’s DNA can uncover mutations that might be susceptible to anti-cancer drugs

“For men with cancer that has spread beyond the prostate, about 10% will have inheritable factors and up to 30% will have mutations within the cancer that can be targeted,” said I. Alex Bowman, MD, a medical oncologist who specializes in cancers of the urinary tract at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center at Banner Gateway Medical Center in Gilbert, AZ.

Often, the hereditary mutations will show up in genes that are responsible for repairing damaged DNA. Experts now recommend genetic profiling for all men who are diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer to check for these mutations.

Men who have these mutations might be able to try two different types of medication: PARP inhibitors and immunotherapy.

Two PARP inhibitors, Lynparza and Rubraca, are FDA-approved for men with specific mutations.

Immunotherapy drugs help your immune system attack cancer cells. They typically aren’t effective for prostate cancer, but genetic testing can help uncover the 2 to 3 percent of prostate cancers that can be treated with immunotherapy.

When is precision medicine a good choice for prostate cancer?

Currently, precision medicine treatments are options for men whose cancer has spread beyond the prostate and who have already been on standard treatments such as hormone therapy and chemotherapy.

Clinical trials are underway to study whether precision medicines should be used sooner or used in men receiving radiation to treat prostate cancer which has not spread.

If you qualify for precision medicine treatment, your doctor can take blood or use tissue from a biopsy to see if your genetics make you a good match for the treatment. Dr. Bowman recommends getting genetic profiling done early so that your oncologist can properly sequence your treatments and find out if you are a candidate for clinical trials.

“There is little downside to genetic profiling,” Dr. Bowman said. “And by not having this testing performed, you risk leaving effective treatments unused.” Genetic testing is typically covered by insurance, and it can also uncover other cancer risk factors that can help your relatives understand their risk and plan their cancer screenings.

The bottom line

For some men with prostate cancer, precision medicine can give them treatment options beyond hormone therapy, chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. If you have prostate cancer, talk to your doctor about genetic testing to see if you’re a candidate for precision medicine treatment.

If you are looking for a doctor who can make sure you’re screened for prostate cancer and other health conditions, Banner Health can help. Connect with a provider near you today.

Learn more about prostate cancer:

Cancer Men's Health Sexual Health