In Canada, there were approximately 21,300 new cases of prostate cancer in 2017, representing 21 percent of all new male cancer patients.

In 2017, four cancers (prostate, breast, lung, and colorectal) combined to account for about half of all cancers diagnosed in Canada, with prostate and female breast the leading cancers. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer to affect Canadian men, with 1 in 8 diagnosed with the disease in their lifetime.

“Out of the more than 21,000 cases of prostate cancer detected in 2017, it is anticipated we will lose more than 4,000 men to the disease,” says Dr. Stuart Edmonds, the Vice President of Research, Health Promotion, and Survivorship at Prostate Cancer Canada. “It remains a significant issue for Canadian men and their families.”

Prostate cancer invasive when untreated

Prostate cancer often grows quite slowly, and some men who develop the disease may live many years without showing symptoms, making regular screening essential. If left untreated, prostate cancer can become invasive — spreading from the prostate to other parts of the body.

In order to grow and spread, prostate cancer cells need androgens — male hormones such as testosterone. In men with more advanced prostate cancers, the cancer will eventually continue to spread and grow, even when treatment has lowered the level of androgens in the body. This is known as metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC). 

Current treatments prolong, and improve quality of, life

Until recently, the only treatment option for mCRPC was aggressive chemotherapy, but patients were often too sick to receive the treatment by the time the cancer was discovered. However, thanks to recent advancements in prostate cancer care, particularly the new class of targeted oral therapies, this is no longer the case. 

“The new therapies have led to a dramatic change that is rarely seen in medicine,” states Dr. Ricardo Rendon, a professor in the Department of Urology at Dalhousie University. “In the first four to five years alone since the initial studies were released, life expectancy doubled from one-and-a-half to three years.”

“As a generally healthy man who wasn’t familiar with hospitals, my diagnosis of prostate cancer was a shocker, but the medicine they have put me on has really slowed it down,” confirms a patient of Dr. Rendon’s — a man in his 80s who was diagnosed in early 2017 and is now receiving oral therapies. “The last time I saw my doctor, he told me to get out there and enjoy the rest of my life, which is just what I’m doing!”

Current research and development efforts surrounding these new therapies are focused on finding innovative solutions to improve the lives of patients living with cancer. Dynamic partnerships are leveraged to find research-driven solutions for molecularly targeted therapies and precision medicines that will have a positive impact on the lives of prostate cancer patients, their caregivers, and families.

“The quality of life improvements brought on across all domains by these new therapies are significant,’ continues Dr. Rendon. “They result in decreased pain, less time spent managing the disease in terms of hospital visits etc., and an increase in general wellness and energy.”

“Perhaps the biggest positive we are seeing is a huge decline in mortality rate over time,” says Dr. Edmunds, in explaining why the motivation to beat prostate cancer remains so high amongst doctors and researchers. “Over the last 25 years we have had a 50 percent decrease in the mortality rate of prostate cancer.”