Ian M. Thompson Jr., M.D

Thousands of men could avoid cancer diagnosis

The American Society of Clinical Oncology has designated a Health Science Center researcher’s work as among the most significant practice-changing studies of 2013.

The long-term follow-up to a groundbreaking finasteride study of 19,000 men, both of which were led by Cancer Therapy & Research Center Director Ian M. Thompson Jr., M.D., confirms that a drug developed for hair growth has no impact on lifespan but reduces the risk of prostate cancer by more than a third.

Ian M. Thompson Jr., M.D

Ian M. Thompson Jr., M.D

Reducing the risk of prostate tumors by about 30 percent – and low-grade tumors by 43 percent – means thousands of men can avoid a cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatments that significantly affect quality of life, Dr. Thompson said.

“If you look at the number of prostate cancers that are diagnosed annually and multiply that by 30 percent, that’s the number of cancers we might be able to prevent each year,” he said.

“That’s more than 71,000 men. That’s more than 175 jumbo jets full of men who won’t get cancer, who won’t face treatments with side effects like sexual dysfunction,” Dr. Thompson said.

“There’s nothing like disease prevention. Nothing comes close,” he added.

The Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial, funded by a National Cancer Institute grant, began in 1993. It was coordinated by SWOG, an international network of research institutions. Researchers were at first concerned that it increased some deadlier prostate cancers.

Prostate Cancer Risk Calculator
The Prostate Cancer Risk Calculator, available on the Health Science Center website, has a new, improved 2.0 version free for men and their doctors to use. In moments, a man 55 or older can obtain a trustworthy, science-based risk estimate – information that can help him know what to discuss with his physician.

The follow-up study, published in theNew England Journal of Medicine, showed that finasteride did not increase mortality rates, and it decreased low-grade prostate cancer even more than originally thought. It was chosen for ASCO’s Clinical Cancer Advances 2013: ASCO’s Annual Report on Progress Against Cancer, an independent annual review of the advances in clinical cancer research that have the greatest potential to improve patients’ survival and quality of life.

In today’s medical climate, many men with low-grade tumors are unnecessarily treated, Dr. Thompson noted, and those treatments carry a considerable burden for the patient and for society.

“If we can free thousands of men each year from that burden,” he said, “we could use those resources for other important medical interventions, reducing death and suffering from disease.”

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