Prostate cancer arises within a male reproductive gland and is the most common cancer among men in the U.S. About 175,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year. While most cases are slow-growing, some are aggressive tumors that grow quickly and spread through the body.
Our researchers are investigating ways to prevent prostate cancer, including identifying lifestyle choices that can lower risk. They also seek ways to determine which patients would most benefit from treatment and how to improve responses to treatment. And they are learning how to better tailor treatment to each patient’s individual tumor and discovering new therapeutic targets.
Prostate cancer research at Fred Hutch is leading to new paradigms for prevention, screening and treatment that could improve patient care and save lives.
Many factors can raise or lower a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer and perhaps even the risk of recurrence after treatment. These include diet, exercise and inherited gene variants. Our researchers are working to identify such factors and measure their impact on risk and patient outcomes. This information can help improve screening and treatment recommendations for men who are at risk or have been diagnosed with prostate cancer.
The discoveries that push treatment forward often arise from a deeper understanding of the fundamental biology of a disease. Our scientists are working to better understand prostate cancer at that fundamental level, with a particular focus on advanced, late-stage prostate cancer. They are examining how molecular changes in prostate tumors drive their development and progression. This knowledge may shed light on tumor vulnerabilities and future treatment targets.
Our scientists have developed preclinical models to improve our understanding of basic prostate tumor biology and test potential new therapies, including immunotherapies.
Ultimately, our researchers hope to help oncologists tailor treatment to each individual patient and his tumor. Doing so requires a deeper understanding of the molecular and genetic alterations in tumors and how they influence disease development, progression and treatment response. Our scientists seek to discover new tumor vulnerabilities that point the way to more effective, targeted treatments, particularly for men with advanced, aggressive tumors.
One of the major treatment issues facing the prostate cancer field is that of overdiagnosis. Prostate cancer is very common, and most men with the disease have slow-growing tumors that don’t require treatment. But some tumors are deadly, and patients with those tumors benefit from treatment. Ideally, oncologists would treat only those men for whom the lifesaving benefits of treatment outweigh the risks of side effects. But it’s not always clear which patients fall into which category. Our scientists seek to provide oncologists with better tools to make those distinctions.
Many Fred Hutch investigators study active surveillance, or “watchful waiting,” in which men with prostate tumors are monitored but not treated. From these studies, our scientists seek to gain information on how to determine which patients will benefit from this approach and which should be treated sooner and more aggressively.
Our scientists are also improving the translation of new diagnostics and therapeutics from the laboratory into the clinic to improve patients’ quality of life.
Jim Cline, a husband and father of two, avid boater and lifelong fan of the Seattle Seahawks, died of prostate cancer at age 58. He had never had a PSA test, and by the time he was diagnosed, his cancer was already too advanced. His brother-in-law tells the story of how Jim, in his last two years of life, urged other men to talk to their doctor about getting this important test.