For patients with advanced or metastatic prostate cancer, the treatments are designed to slow the progression of the prostate cancer as opposed to curing the cancer. In this situation hormone therapy and chemotherapy are the mainstays of therapy. There is also the possibility of experimental therapies.
Prostate cancer feeds on the male hormone testosterone and testosterone can stimulate the growth of cancerous cells in the prostate. By reducing the testosterone levels in the body, prostate cancer cells can shrink and this results in delaying prostate cancer progression. Hormone therapy refers to the reduction of testosterone and can be achieved by surgery to remove the testicles (which produce testosterone), injections to block the production of testosterone or tablets to block the action of testosterone. It is generally used when the cancer is no longer confined to the prostate but may also be used in conjunction with radiotherapy to potentiate its efficacy or may be used before brachytherapy to shrink the size of the prostate.
Though active research is being investigated, chemotherapy has not been as successful in controlling prostate cancer as it has been for other cancers. Its greatest benefits may be in the control of pain and quality of life for men with hormone-resistant prostate cancer. It also has the potential to increase the survival of patients with metastatic prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer research is constantly evolving and as such there may be opportunities to participate in research programs using experimental therapies. If you are interested in participating in experimental therapies then discuss this with Dr Swindle.