The Astellas Way Blog

Celebrating Progress and Promise: Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

By Mark Reisenauer, Senior Vice President, Oncology Business Unit

Sep 3, 2019

As we enter September and the changing of the seasons, let’s remember a group out there that needs our support. September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, a time to recognize the patients, family members and friends who are impacted by a disease that affects thousands of men every year. As we take the time to understand their experiences and paths, it’s also important to recognize all of the scientific progress that has transformed our understanding of this disease and empowered more men to take control of their health.

Seventy years ago, the profile of a prostate cancer patient was a male in his early 70s, typically diagnosed in the advanced stage of the disease when the cancer had already spread to his bones and other organs. Most of these men died within two years.1

In the 1940s, the first major scientific advancement in prostate cancer occurred when a University of Chicago physician named Charles Huggins pioneered a practice-changing approach to treating the disease that is still used today.2 Huggins discovered that metastatic prostate cancer responds to androgen-deprivation therapy – blocking the action of male hormones and thereby removing a catalyst for cancer growth. The 1950s ushered in the next treatment milestone, when high-energy radiation machines were introduced to reach prostate cancer tumors. When used in combination with androgen-deprivation therapy, radiation improved relapse-free and overall survival, and it quickly became the standard of care.3-5

Inspired by these breakthroughs, researchers have continued pushing the boundaries of science in prostate cancer, leading to innovations like advanced diagnostic testing and newer targeted treatments. Today, while prostate cancer remains one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in men, the prognosis is far more hopeful. An estimated 3 million men in the United States live with prostate cancer, and while survival rates can vary based on the stage of the disease and response to treatment, the relative five-year survival rate for prostate cancer is estimated to be 98%.6 

This isn’t to say that our work in the field is done. Prostate cancer is still the second leading cause of cancer deaths among men in the United States, and more than 174,000 will be newly diagnosed this year.7 About six cases in ten are diagnosed in men aged 65 or older.8 Additionally, disparities exist when it comes to prostate cancer. For example, African-American men are more than one and a half times more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer and are more than two times more likely to die from the disease than Caucasian men.9

As we celebrate the collective work of the prostate cancer community in changing the trajectory of this disease, Astellas is committed to advancing scientific innovations with the potential to help tackle remaining challenges. We’re working hard to address the unmet needs that still exist in prostate cancer – throughout September and beyond.

To learn more about what Astellas is doing to support Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, visit our Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages.  

References:

  1. Denmeade, S. R., & Isaacs, J. T. (2002). A history of prostate cancer treatment. Nature reviews. Cancer, 2(5), 389–396. doi:10.1038/nrc801

  2. Huggins C, Stephens RC, Hodges CV. Studies on prostatic cancer: 2. The effects of castration on advanced carcinoma of the prostate gland. Arch Surg. 1941;43:209.

  3. Pilepich MV, et al. Androgen deprivation with radiation therapy compared with radiation therapy alone for locally advanced prostatic carcinoma: a randomized comparative trial of the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group. Urology. 1995;45:616–623. 

  4. Pilepich MV, et al. Phase III trial of androgen suppression using goserelin in unfavorable-prognosis carcinoma of the prostate treated with definitive radiotherapy: Report of Radiation Therapy Oncology Group Protocol 85–31. J Clin Oncol. 1997;15:1013–1021. 

  5. Bolla M, et al. Improved survival in patients with locally advanced prostate cancer treated with radiotherapy and goserelin. N Engl J Med. 1997;337:295–300. 

  6. National Cancer Institute. Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program. Cancer stat facts: prostate cancer. https://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/prost.html. Accessed 05-22-2019.

  7. American Cancer Society. Cancer facts & figures 2019. Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society; 2019. https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/cancer-org/research/cancer-facts-and-statistics/annual-cancer-facts-and-figures/2019/cancer-facts-and-figures-2019.pdf. Accessed 07-26-2019.

  8. American Cancer Society. Key Statistics for Prostate Cancer. Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society; 2016. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/about/key-statistics.html

  9. ZERO – The End of Prostate Cancer. African Americans & Prostate Cancer. https://zerocancer.org/learn/about-prostate-cancer/risks/african-americans-prostate-cancer/. Accessed August 2019.