Getting Aggressive with Prostate Cancer

PHILADELPHIA. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, affecting one in seven men.  With more American men living well into their 70s and 80s, a new study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found big benefits to aggressively fighting prostate cancer in elderly patients.

Bernie McCauley dotes on his grandkids and loves spending time tinkering on his baby, a 1979 MGB Roadster.  At age 70, Bernie says he still has a lot of miles left.

"I keep telling everybody, I haven't felt this good in 35 years," McCauley told Ivanhoe.

Bernie survived throat cancer in 2012 and is battling aggressive prostate cancer right now.  At first, he didn't like his treatment options. He explained, "Radiation, chemo, or take my chances and outlive it."

Instead of watching and waiting, Bernie wanted a more aggressive approach.

Justin Bekelman, MD, Radiation Oncologist at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Medicine says in many cases, standard treatment for aggressive prostate cancer in men over the age of 65 is hormone therapy alone.

"We can do better," Dr. Bekelman told Ivanhoe.

Instead, Dr. Bekelman is studying the benefits of adding radiation therapy to hormone treatment in older patients.

"The use of curative treatments is still incredibly important, and it's effective," he said.

Dr. Bekelman found that adding radiation to hormone therapy reduced death in elderly patients by about 50-percent. He says patients do need to weigh the chances of cure against long-term side effects of radiation: erection, bowel and bladder problems.

For Bernie, the decision was easy. He exclaimed, "Don't be afraid of radical, new treatment."   He'shoping this adds years to his life, in addition to the life in his years.

Dr. Bekelman says two landmark clinical trials have shown that radiation and hormone therapy provided a significant improvement in survival in younger men, but until now, there has been no research on treatment for older men.