The market for prostate cancer treatment is actively growing, as the disease is one of the most common and most fatal cancers among all races of men in the U.S. Within the next several years, it's likely that we'll see a plethora of new options for treating prostate cancer coming to the market.
Already in the past year, we've seen the FDA approve several prostate cancer-related devices and drugs, including the RealEye system, which attaches to a linear accelerator to help doctors more precisely deliver radiation therapy to targeted tumor locations, reducing radiation damage to surrounding healthy tissue.(VIDEO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8lWI6zk5LQ) New drug therapies Zytiga, which targets a specific protein that blocks testosterone production, and Provenge, a therapeutic vaccine that activates the immune system to attack cancer cells, are also on the market now. (VIDEO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CpT8Gpzi3vs)
But excitement surrounds an experimental new prostate cancer drug by Bayer, which recently had its FDA approval fast-tracked because of the promise it showed in clinical trials. Designed to release a radioactive particle that targets tumors, the drug increased the average survival time by nearly three months for patients with prostate cancer that had metastasized to their bones. Another company, Endocyte, is testing drugs that specifically target receptors that are over-expressed on cancerous cells.
Other biotechnology companies are devising novel drug alternative treatments. A startup company called NxThera says its thermal vapor treatment, which involves the injection of hot vapor into an enlarged prostate to shrink it, could eventually be used in treating prostate and other types of cancer.
Another approach called image-guided histotripsy, which uses small, intense ultrasound pulses sent through the skin to break down excess tissue, is being developed by researchers at the University of Michigan. Its first applications will be to treat other prostate conditions, but the therapy has potential applications for prostate cancer in the future.
Since 2009, more hospitals have been adding pencil-beam proton therapy programs to their cancer units. This technology allows doctors to deliver high doses of radiation therapy to tumors in very controlled, three-dimensional patterns, limiting the amount of radiation exposure to healthy cells. (VIDEO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXJ6JNI3v00)
But before treatment can start, doctors must first be able to detect and diagnose prostate cancer, which can sometimes be tricky because of the high possibility for false positives in traditional prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing. A company called AnalizaDx is developing technology that measures changes to the structures of certain proteins, or biomarkers, in the blood, which the company says makes it more effective than traditional tests in accurately detecting prostate cancer.