New research has shown that tuning blood tests to detect circulating tumor cells, or CTCs, in the bloodstream may help in the treatment of a subset of particularly aggressive prostate cancers that have metastasized throughout the body.
The CTC Connection
CTCs in the bloodstream have, up until now, been exceedingly difficult to pick out in routine blood work — something that has prevented doctors from developing treatments related to these hard-to-detect cells. However, scientists say that using CTC analysis may have resulted in better quality of life for patients with metastatic prostate cancer.
In this case, researchers were looking for alternative treatments for men that were suffering from prostate cancer that had proven resistant to hormone therapy, one of the standard methods for combating prostate tumors. Using CTC analysis to pinpoint AR-V7 prostate cancer, a particularly aggressive mutation, patients suffering from that mutation were easier to treat with specific chemotherapy drugs that were much more effective than other treatments for non-AR-V7 hormone-resistant tumors.
A Sizable Difference
The difference in survival rates, the researchers found, was profound. Median survival rates doubled for AR-V7 tumor sufferers from around 7 months to approximately 14 months. The study, which also tested the effectiveness of an alternative treatment for non-AR-V7 tumors, also found that there was a survival rate increase; median rates there rose to over 19 months, up from just a bit more than 12 months.
With metastatic prostate cancer being such a serious diagnosis, every single weapon in the arsenal against these highly aggressive tumors is crucial in providing better overall health to patients. The ability to demonstrate which of these alternative treatments work better depending on the nature of the particular tumor showcases is completely depending on screening for evidence of AR-V7 by looking for CTCs in the bloodstream. The implications for more effective and personalized treatment by screening for CTCs is therefore good news for the future.