It’s a question that our current tests can’t answer that well. And for prostate cancer, it’s a definite gap. That’s because there are two types of prostate cancer: indolent (the slow-growing type) and aggressive. Indolent is the more common of the two, and the type that might not ever kill, or even need to be treated. It’s the cancer that many men die with, and not from. But what if your diagnosis is for the more aggressive form of the disease? 

What is aggressive prostate cancer?

The aggressive type of this disease can metastasize, spreading to other parts of the body, like lymph nodes in the pelvic areas and the bones. This can cause bone pain, as well as other side effects. Unfortunately, aggressive prostate cancer can also lead to metastases in other organs, which is how cancer kills. 

“Their goal is simple: to develop a test that differentiates between indolent and aggressive cancer.”

As testing for prostate cancer currently stands, we can only tell if prostate cancer is present, but not if it is slow growing or aggressive. That’s a serious concern, because if aggressive cancer is detected in its earlier stages, the survival rate is much greater. However, research advancements are currently underway with the goal to make it possible to know if an individual’s prostate cancer is indolent or aggressive. 

The research is getting close

The Movember Translation Acceleration Grants, awarded this April by Prostate Cancer Canada and funded by Movember, are supporting three different teams all working on this need. Their goal is simple:  to develop a test that differentiates between indolent and aggressive cancer. 

Through different types of blood and urine tests, the teams are working to find a way to tell patients which form of the disease they have when they are diagnosed. This means that for those men facing the aggressive form of the disease, they can begin their treatment sooner. We also don’t want to have to operate, irradiate, put a man through chemo, or hormone-replacement if it isn’t necessary.  Today we have to default to saving the life. 

The bottom line

Living with cancer can be difficult, but the most important thing is that you know what you’re up against. Ultimately, we want you to have all the tools and access to treatment that you need. If it’s aggressive, we want to treat you as early as we possibly can. 

The bottom line is we want to keep you alive.  These tests will be available within the decade, which means that more lives will be saved. Advancements in prostate research are ongoing to improve the diagnosis and treatment process. Together we can make the diagnosis and treatment process more exact, and hopefully find a cure.