I’ve been lucky in my career to be part of research that has resulted in major advances in the treatment of prostate cancer.
When I first started as an oncologist, there was only one treatment for advanced, hormone therapy resistant prostate cancer – it was a chemotherapy called mitoxantrone, which although well tolerated, only produced a modest improvement in symptoms with no survival benefit.
Since then we have seen the introduction of five new drugs that improve survival and symptoms. Where once the typical survival was one year, I can now tell my patients the average survival can be double or triple that, with some doing even much better than that. Clearly, we don’t stop the research into new treatments until there’s a cure, and I continue to work on the clinical development of promising new drugs.
Another major goal of our research is to develop better prediction tools – methods or tests that will enable us to pick the best therapy for a particular patient. For patients with advanced hormone therapy resistant prostate cancer, this is an area of particular need. To that end, we have designed a new trial that will be moving ahead in this year and next, testing techniques with both current therapies and new ones.
Over the last 15 years, I’ve been fortunate to see how cancer treatment has moved from non-specific chemotherapy to more cancer-specific targeted therapy and the survival of many patients with advanced disease be extended considerably. In this age of being able to characterize an individual patient’s tumour, we are now on the verge of even more specificity and being able to do even better “personalized” or “precision” medicine. Another recent breakthrough is in advances in immunotherapy – being able to harness the body’s own immune system to attack the cancer and I fully expect these treatments to roll out across a number of cancers in the next few years.
I really do expect that in the next 15 years we will continue to see big advances with more patients being cured, and if not cured then their cancers turned into a chronic, manageable disease. This will take all our collective efforts – laboratory and clinical researchers, patients who bravely volunteer to try something new, and the community to support them all.
I’ve enjoyed writing this blog,