Should hormone therapy be used before or after prostate radiotherpy?

Combination therapy with Hormone therapy and Radiotherapy is used with curative intent for treatment of prostate cancer.

There is some debate which treatment should be started first. At present, the hormone therapy is started first and radiotherpy is started second at a later date.

This is because many previous clinical trials, which found beneficial effects for the combination therapy, involved starting hormones first.

One advantage of starting hormone therapy immediately and delaying the start date of radiotherpy is that hormone therapy shrinks the size of prostate before radiotherpy . This greatly helps when image-guided Radiotherpy is planned later on.

A group of high Calibre researchers and authors from Canada and USA have published paper arguing in favour of radiotherpy starting first and starting hormones afterwards.

Some of the authors behind this paper in Journal of Clinical oncology have previously published seminal, practice changing, papers in field of prostate cancer.

My personal view, is that we have to wait for confirmatory evidence before changing the current practice.

I have to resort to the megaphone of a provocative headline grabbing title so that oncologists won’t uncritically accept the conclusion of the paper

Read the original paper and my published response .

Adjuvant Hormone Therapy After Prostate Radiation: Is This Data Torture?

, MD and , MD. Nottingham University Hospital NHS Trust, Nottingham, United Kingdom

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is NOT a expert medical opinion on various topics. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you. The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with. The views expressed in this blog are not in way intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

Are COVID-19 vaccines safe in cancer patients having immunotherapy?

Yes, Pfizer vaccine is safe.

A recent study published in the esteemed Lancet Oncology Journal shows that the vaccine is well tolerated in patients having immunotherapy.

Unlike cancer chemotherapy, immunotherapy works differently. It works by releasing the in-built brakes holding down the immune system thereby boosting the body’s immune system against cancer.

There has been some theoretical concerns whether this might lead to COVID vaccine causing more side effects.

Reassuringly, the Vaccine side effects were NO different from those seen in people not having immunotherapy. The Vaccine also did NOT increase the immunotherapy side effects.

Immunotherapy is increasingly used widely in treatment of cancer are often better tolerated than chemotherapy.

So the study is good news for tens of thousands of patients on immunotherapy and any cancer patient who has hesitated before, should seriously consider having the vaccine now

COVID infection could be very nasty in cancer patients and all evidence points to the benefits of vaccine far outweighing any risks from the Vaccine.

References

Short-term safety of the BNT162b2 mRNA COVID-19 vaccine in patients with cancer treated with immune checkpoint inhibitors
The Lancet Oncology. Published: April 1, 2021
Barliz Waissengrin et al. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S1470-2045(21)00155-8

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is NOT a expert medical opinion on various topics. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you. The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with. The authors views are not in way intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

Anything potentially good from this COVID-19 pandemic?

It might seem foolish to ask the question “Anything good from this COVID-19 pandemic?” when so many people across the world has been so badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

There is some truth in the proverb that “every dark cloud has a silver lining” and no matter how bad the current pandemic is now, human spirit and endeavour would get something positive out of it.

One possible good thing that has come out of the pandemic is the “mRNA technology”.

Of the three vaccines so far, two of them the Pfizer vaccine and the Moderna vaccine are based on RNA technology.

The successful use of RNA technology for Coronavirus Vaccines would hopefully enable the versatile RNA technology to be further developed and successfully used a cancer treatment in near future.

Further clinical trials in cancer patients would be done to provide proof of their potential.

References:

Bloomberg. Technology & Ideas. mRNA Vaccines Could Vanquish Covid Today, Cancer Tomorrow.
The best news about the mRNA shots from BioNTech and Moderna is that the same technique could also defeat many other diseases.

MSKCC. In a Twist, Scientists Find Cancer Drivers Hiding in RNA, Not DNA.

Jerusalem Post Health & Science. Israeli scientists use mRNA COVID-19 vaccine technology to fight cancer. By MAAYAN JAFFE-HOFFMAN NOVEMBER 24, 2020 20:08

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and the authors views are not in way intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

New oral medication approved for Prostate Cancer

Advanced Prostate cancer can be successfully controlled for many years by hormone therapy.

Until now, the hormone therapy, which is widely used widely used, involved either hormone injections or hormone implants.

The FDA in USA has recently approved a new novel oral medication for prostate cancer. It acts quickly and has been proven to be highly active. It is taken as a daily oral medication. It is reasonably well tolerated.

It is not known when the medication would be approved in UK and Europe.

References

(1) NEJM. Oral Relugolix for Androgen-Deprivation Therapy in Advanced Prostate Cancer

(2) FDA approval. FDA approves relugolix for advanced prostate cancer.

(3) Information about Relugolix. FDA: HIGHLIGHTS OF PRESCRIBING INFORMATION. and FULL PRESCRIBING INFORMATION.

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Is the COVID-19 Coronavirus vaccine safe for use in patients having chemotherapy and immunotherapy?

Yes, the available indirect evidence indicates that the anticipated benefits overweigh the potential risks.

Cancer patients, particularly those on chemotherapy have compromised immune systems and hence more vulnerable to COVID-19 Coronavirus complications.

The guidelines indicate that anticipated benefits of vaccine are greater than unknown risks from the Coronavirus vaccines.

The Vaccine trials deliberately included lot of healthy people. Very few people with cancer, particularly cancer patients on active treatment, were included in the COVID-19 trials. So there is not much direct evidence regarding efficacy and safety of Vaccines in cancer patients. But indirect evidence significantly favours Coronavirus vaccination in cancer patients.

Flu vaccines are regularly used in cancer patients without any major side effects specific to cancer patients. No increase in incidence or severity of drug side effects were seen in immunotherapy patients having flu vaccines.

On balance, Vaccination is most likely to be of utmost benefit for most advanced cancer patients on active treatment.

References:

ESMO STATEMENTS FOR VACCINATION AGAINST COVID-19 IN PATIENTS WITH CANCER.

Guidance: COVID-19: the green book, chapter 14a
Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination information
for public health professionals. (UK),

Cochrane: Influenza (flu) vaccination for preventing influenza in adults with cancer

Safety of Inactivated Influenza Vaccine in Cancer Patients Receiving Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors
Curtis R Chong et al. Clin Infect Dis. 2020.

ESMO: CANCER PATIENT MANAGEMENT DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC.

Kuderer NM Choueiri TK Shah DP et al.
Clinical impact of COVID-19 on patients with cancer (CCC19): a cohort study. Lancet. 2020; 395: 1907-1918

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.
The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Cancer treatment delays during the pandemic

The Staff at National Health Service in UK are doing an admirable job during the pandemic. In the particular, the frontline staff (“patient-facing”) are showing great courage in face of great difficulties and are primarily driven by altruism.

But the pressures of pandemic means many routine scans and hospital clinic appointments have been cancelled particularly during the first wave. There is a great worry about delayed diagnosis of cancer and delayed treatment of cancer.

A paper in BMJ reports that cancer patients survival can be significantly compromised.

But, as with everything else in life, things are not always what they look like at first impression. Even things that are logical and common sense at first glance do not turn out to be simple and clear.

Firstly, delays and cancellations of scans paradoxically could have psychologically benefited some cancer patients . This might seem counterintuitive or even an outrageous statement.

But there are some cancers which are being over diagnosed. A Cancer diagnosis does not always mean a death sentence. Some cancers do not cause problems for a long time or never in the life time of a person. These cancers do not need to be diagnosed promptly. Not being diagnosed with these cancers prevents the psychological burden of a cancer diagnosis. This “over diagnosis” would be expectedly less during pandemic.

Secondly, treatment delays could be caused by a cancer that is advanced and the need for time consuming additional investigations and procedures. Sometimes delays are caused by patients needing to see many medical specialists for the treatment. So it’s the aggressive cancer and the complex patient care that would cause the delay and is responsible for poor outcome rather than the delay by itself.

Read the BMJ article and make your views known.

Mortality due to cancer treatment delay: systematic review and meta-analysis
BMJ 2020; 371 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m4087 (Published 04 November 2020)
Cite this as: BMJ 2020;371:m4087

Overdiagnosis in Cancer
H. Gilbert Welch, William C. Black
JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Volume 102, Issue 9, 5 May 2010, Pages 605–613, https://doi.org/10.1093/jnci/djq099

Disparities in head and neck cancer: assessing delay in treatment initiation
Urjeet A Patel et al. Laryngoscope. 2012 Aug.

Khorana AA, Tullio K, Elson P, Pennell NA, Grobmyer SR, Kalady MF, et al. (2019) . Time to initial cancer treatment in the United States and association with survival over time: An observational study. PLoS ONE 14(4): e0215108. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0215108

Cancer and COVID-19

Cancer patients, as expected, did badly during the 1st wave of the COVID-19 pandemic

Data presented at ESMO ( European Society of Medical Oncology) shows that Cancers had – higher rates of Hospitalisation, higher risk of Complications and increased risk of Death.

Elderly cancer patients on the whole did very badly but surprisingly cancer patients under age of 50 did far worse than their peers without cancer.

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Hope and incurable Cancer: does hope torment or does it help to cope?

A diagnosis of incurable and advanced cancer is often a massive shock to everyone.

Should we ask them to face reality , accept death and extinguish all hope.

Or should we be offering hope of living a bit longer with treatments while being honest with prognosis.

Hope can be tormenting to some.

Hope can be comforting to some.

What are you views?

Contribute your views at online rapid response @BMJ journal

Don’t torment me with hope. BMJ 2020; 370 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m3016 (Published 09 September 2020)Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m3016

In defence of Hope: https://www.bmj.com/content/370/bmj.m3016/rr-3

Can Vitamin D control prostate cancer?

Vitamin D is also known as the “sunshine vitamin” because it’s produced in your skin in response to sunlight. Vitamin D is critical for bone health and general health.

sunlight

Low levels of vitamin D in blood have been linked to cancer and other diseases.

But taking Vitamin D supplements to control an existing prostate cancer is controversial.

vitamin D

In  the lab, Vitamin D can stop prostate cancer cells growing and spreading.

One human trial suggested better outcome when high strength vitamin D is combined with standard chemotherapy.  But a second trial involving prostate cancer patients showed an unexpected and unexplained increase in death rate in patients taking Vitamin D with chemotherapy.

So the answer is “no” – Vitamin D cannot be used to control prostate cancer.

Related Links:

1. Sung V. 1,25-Dihydroxyvitamin D3 decreases human prostate cancer cell adhesion and migration. Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2000;164:133–143.

2. Moffatt KA. Growth inhibitory effects of 1α, 25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 are mediated by increased levels of p21 in the prostatic carcinoma cell line ALVA-31. Cancer Res. 2001;61:7122–7129.

3. Double-blinded randomized study of high-dose calcitriol plus docetaxel compared with placebo plus docetaxel in androgen-independent prostate cancer: a report from the ASCENT Investigators. J Clin Oncol. 2007 Feb 20;25(6):669-74.

4. Another Clinical Trial Failure – Ascent-2 https://malecare.org/another-clinical-trial-failure-ascent-2/

5. Randomized, open-label phase III trial of docetaxel plus high-dose calcitriol versus docetaxel plus prednisone for patients with castration-resistant prostate cancer. J Clin Oncol. 2011 Jun 1;29(16):2191-8.

 

 

 

Can Pomegranate fruit control prostate cancer?

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Some lab studies have indicated that pomegranate fruit is active against prostate cancer. Unfortunately, three separate patient studies have shown only minor activity  in the form of “slowing down of PSA rise”

So “Eat fresh fruit or Drink fresh juice” if you relish it like any other fruit or juice. If there is any effect on prostate cancer, it would be unexpected bonus. But don’t compel yourself to eat or drink it for therapeutic benefit !

Bear in mind that the pomegranate juice or fruit can interfere with some other medications. And I will also state the obvious that “pomegranate is not an approved cancer treatment”.

Links for further reading:

1. Daily Mail. Pomegranate juice ‘can help fight prostate cancer’. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-393368/Pomegranate-juice-help-fight-prostate-cancer.html

2. Guardian: Consider the pomegranate.  https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2011/feb/01/consider-pomegranate

3.Phase II study of pomegranate juice for men with rising prostate-specific antigen following surgery or radiation for prostate cancer. Clin Cancer Res. Jul 1 2006;12(13):4018-4026.

4. A randomized phase II study of pomegranate extract for men with rising PSA following initial therapy for localized prostate cancer.Prostate Cancer Prostatic Dis. 2013 Mar;16(1):50-5.

5. A double-blind, placebo-controlled randomised trial evaluating the effect of a polyphenol-rich whole food supplement on PSA progression in men with prostate cancer—the U.K. NCRN Pomi-T study. Prostate Cancer Prostatic Dis. 2014 Jun;17(2):180-6.

6. Is pomegranate juice a potential perpetrator of clinical drug-drug interactions? Review of the in vitro, preclinical and clinical evidence. Eur J Drug Metab Pharmacokinet. 2013 Dec;38(4):223-9. doi: 10.1007/s13318-013-0137-x.

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New test for Prostate cancer

www.freephotosbank.com.photographers1.med_cg124s008d

Research team from Dundee University are developing  a new scan for diagnosis of prostate cancer.  The technique is non-invasive. This novel scan uses an ultrasound process called shear wave elastography (SWE) to detect prostate tumours.

The team’s leader, Professor Ghulam Nabi claims “Our new method is far more accurate and also allows us to identify the difference between cancerous and benign tissue in the prostate without the need for invasive surgery.”

This exciting project was funded by Prostate Cancer UK with support from the Movember Foundation.

The raw data from the paper abstract does call for caution. The test was done in patients who are already known to have prostate cancer. The test was not use to diagnose the cancer. It was a single centre study which usually calls for caution. How well the scan would perform in ” real world” patients who are yet to be diagnosed with prostate cancer remains to be seen.

Early results from about 200 patients are very promising indeed. The test has enormous potential if it is proven to work in a large scale, multi-centre trial.

Links:

  1. The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/apr/22/prostate-cancer-ultrasound-diagnosis-test.
  2. Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-5643999/Dundee-scientists-new-non-invasive-ultrasound-detect-prostate-cancer.html.
  3. BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-tayside-central-43864875.
  4. Pubmed: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29605444

 

Image credit: Anon