Thursday, January 17, 2013

Men at ‘High’ Skeletal Risk Prior to Prostate Cancer Hormone Therapy Likely to Have More Fractures After Treatment

In what is believed to be the first study to describe the impact on men with a ‘high’ risk of bone fracture who are receiving long-term androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) for prostate cancer, new research from The Cancer Institute of New Jersey shows this population to have a higher fracture incidence following treatment completion. The findings, published in the latest online version of BJU International (doi:10.1111/j.1464-410X.2012.11758.x), also show that men who experienced a fracture had a 1.38-fold higher mortality risk than those who did not. The Cancer Institute of New Jersey is a Center of Excellence of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (RWJMS).

Men with localized prostate cancer who have underlying health conditions often receive this type of therapy with the hope to shrink or delay growth of their cancer, because they are considered inappropriate candidates for more aggressive therapies such as surgery or radiation. Previous studies have shown an association between the receipt of ADT for prostate cancer and an increased risk of bone fracture and other skeletal complications, such as a decrease in bone mineral density. The investigators at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey further explored the impact of this treatment on men already deemed to be at high risk for fracture prior to receiving therapy.

Using the population-based Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER)-Medicare linked database, researchers reviewed information on demographics and tumor characteristics from 75,994 men aged 66 and older who were diagnosed as having localized prostate cancer from 1992 to 2007. All of the SEER registries hold the highest level of certification of data quality. A risk assessment scale for baseline skeletal complications - including fracture - was created, utilizing the presence of certain conditions within one year prior to cancer diagnosis. These conditions included diabetes, alcohol and cigarette use, paralysis, and liver disease.

Investigators found that during a 12-year follow up, more than 58 percent of men deemed at high fracture risk prior to treatment and 38 percent considered at low risk developed at least one fracture following ADT. The research also showed that men with a high baseline risk had a higher probability of receiving ADT (52.1 percent) compared to those with a low baseline risk (38.2 percent). It was also determined that those men receiving ADT by itself were likely to have a stronger dose than those who received ADT in combination with other treatments for their prostate cancer. Mortality risk was found to be 40 percent higher within two years after experiencing a fracture.

“Our findings suggest that treating men having a high baseline risk of fracture with long-term androgen deprivation therapy may have serious adverse consequences,” said senior author Grace Lu-Yao, PhD, MPH, cancer epidemiologist at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey and professor of medicine at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and of epidemiology at UMDNJ-School of Public Health. “We anticipate the results of this study will prompt further examination of a patient’s baseline-risk of fracture and skeletal complications prior to administering this course of therapy.”

The authors note the use of bisphosphonates, which are effective in preventing bone loss in patients with prostate cancer receiving ADT, was not available in the SEER-Medicare linked data. Information regarding a patient’s height and weight, which can be considered risk factors for skeletal complications, also was not available. Data on men younger than 66 were not examined. Despite these limitations, Dr. Lu-Yao, says their investigation shines new light on a large subset of men who commonly receive ADT.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Change in PSA levels over time can help predict aggressive prostate cancer

Measurements taken over time of prostate specific antigen, the most commonly used screening test for prostate cancer in men, improve the accuracy of aggressive prostate cancer detection when compared to a single measurement of PSA, according to a Kaiser Permanente study published today in the British Journal of Urology International.

The retrospective study examined the electronic health records of nearly 220,000 men ages 45 and older over a 10-year period who had at least one PSA measurement and no previous diagnosis of prostate cancer. The study found that annual percent changes in PSA more accurately predicted the presence of aggressive prostate cancer when compared to single measurements of PSA alone, but only marginally improved the prediction of prostate cancer overall.

"The use of a single, elevated PSA level to screen for prostate cancer is considered controversial given the questionable benefits of PSA screening on prostate cancer mortality. The screening may also result in unnecessary prostate biopsies and subsequent treatments for localized prostate cancer, as it does not distinguish well between slow-growing and aggressive disease," said Lauren P. Wallner, PhD, MPH, study lead author and post-doctoral research fellow at Kaiser Permanente Southern California's Department of Research & Evaluation. "Our study demonstrates that repeated measurements of PSA over time could provide a more accurate – and much needed – detection strategy for aggressive forms of prostate cancer."

Men in the study were also found to experience a 2.9 percent change in PSA levels per year on average and that the rate of change in PSA increased modestly with age.

"The results of this study could provide clinicians with a better prostate cancer preventive strategy that could help differentiate between men with an aggressive form of the disease and those who have slow-growing, indolent cancer that may not necessarily merit treatment," said Wallner. "While we do not suggest that patients proactively seek out additional PSA measurements, men who already have had multiple PSAs may consider discussing the change in their PSA levels with their clinician when determining future treatment strategies."

The PSA test measures the level of prostate specific antigen, a substance made by the prostate, in a man's blood. It is one of the most commonly used tests to screen for prostate cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As a rule, the higher the PSA level in the blood, the more likely a prostate problem is present. But many factors, such as age, race, and non-cancerous conditions can affect PSA levels. The CDC and other federal agencies follow the prostate cancer screening recommendations set forth by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which recommends against PSA-based screening for men who do not have symptoms. Kaiser Permanente guidelines include a recommendation that men age 40 and older should discuss the PSA test and rectal exam with their physician.

Aside from non-melanoma skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the United States, according to the CDC. In 2008 (the most recent year numbers are available), nearly 215,000 men in the United States were diagnosed with prostate cancer and more than 28,000 men died from the disease. Prostate cancer is the second most common cause of death from cancer among white, African American, American Indian/Alaska Native and Hispanic men, and is more common in African-American men than white men, according to the CDC.

Friday, January 4, 2013

How prostate cancer therapies compare by cost and effectiveness

Surgery ranks as the most cost-effective type of treatment, according to UCSF-led study

The most comprehensive retrospective study ever conducted comparing how the major types of prostate cancer treatments stack up to each other in terms of saving lives and cost effectiveness is reported this week by a team of researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

Appearing in the British Journal of Urology International, the work analyzed 232 papers published in the last decade that report results from clinical studies following patients with low-, intermediate- and high-risk forms of prostate cancer who were treated with one or more of the standard treatments – radiation therapy, surgery, hormone therapies and brachytherapy.

The analysis shows that for people with low-risk prostate cancer, the various forms of treatment vary only slightly in terms of survival – the odds of which are quite good for men with this type of cancer, with a 5-year cancer-specific survival rate of nearly 100 percent. But the cost of radiation therapy is significantly more expensive than surgery for low-risk prostate cancer, they found.

For intermediate- and high-risk cancers, both survival and cost generally favored surgery over other forms of treatment – although combination external-beam radiation and brachytherapy together were comparable in terms of quality of life-adjusted survival for high-risk prostate cancer.

"Our findings support a greater role for surgery for high-risk disease than we have generally seen it used in most practice settings," said urologist Matthew Cooperberg, MD, MPH who led the research. Cooperberg is an assistant professor of urology and epidemiology and biostatistics in the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center is one of the country's leading research and clinical care centers, and it is the only comprehensive cancer center in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Many Treatment Options, but Few Cost Analyses

Localized prostate cancer accounts for about 81 percent of the quarter-million cases of prostate cancers that occur in the United States every year, according to the National Cancer Institute. It is defined by tumors that have not metastasized and spread outside the prostate gland to other parts of the body.

There are multiple types of treatment for this form of the disease, including various types of surgery (open, laparoscopic or robot-assisted); radiation therapy (dose-escalated three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy, intensity-modulated radiation therapy and brachytherapy); hormone therapies; and combinations of each of these. Many men with low-risk prostate cancer do not need any of these treatments, and can be safely observed, at least initially.

Treatment plans for localized prostate cancer often vary dramatically from one treatment center to another. As Cooperberg put it, one person may have surgery, while someone across town with a very similar tumor may have radiation therapy, and a third may undergo active surveillance. All treatment regimens may do equally well.

"There is very little solid evidence that one [approach] is better than another," said Cooperberg. The motivation for the new study, however, was that there are also few data examining the differences in terms of cost-effectiveness – the price to the health care system for every year of life gained, with adjustment for complications and side effects of treatments.

The new study was the most comprehensive cost analysis ever, and it compared the costs and outcomes associated with the various types of treatment for all forms of the disease, which ranged from $19,901 for robot-assisted prostatectomy to treat low-risk disease, to $50,276 for combined radiation therapy for high-risk disease.

The study did not consider two other approaches for dealing with prostate cancer: active surveillance, where patients with low-risk cancer are followed closely with blood tests and biopsies and avoid any initial treatment; and proton therapy, which is much more expensive and has already been shown in multiple studies not to be cost-effective, said Cooperberg.

The article, "Primary treatments for clinically localised prostate cancer: a comprehensive lifetime cost-utility analysis" is authored by Matthew R. Cooperberg, Naren R. Ramakrishna, Steven B. Duff, Kathleen E. Hughes, Sara Sadownik, Joseph A. Smith and Ashutosh K. Tewari. It was published online on Dec. 28, 2012 by the British Journal of Urology International. The article can be accessed at: