TORONTO – It happens each year: fathers, husbands and sons stash away their razors and set their moustaches free. It’s called Movember and it raises millions of dollars around the world.
On Wednesday, $5 million of that Canadian funding was doled out to three prostate cancer research projects in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. Doctors hope their work could result in three innovative ways to test for aggressive forms of prostate cancers.
“They said it was to get a test so we could identify very early on who we need to test – these three projects are really getting at that issue. We are really changing the face of prostate cancer and the results we’re going to achieve in the next few years are going to be significant,” Edmonds told Global News.
He’s the vice president of research, health promotion and survivorship with the national organization.
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Early diagnosis and treatment has saved lives in the fight against prostate cancer but the next step is to learn how to differentiate which cases are aggressive forms of cancer and which may not need to be treated so severely.
“There’s a real issue of overtreatment and that’s because we don’t have a good test that can identify the aggressive prostate cancers. It’s about recognizing the prostate cancers that men will die with rather than the aggressive cancers they’ll die of,” Edmonds said.
The three research teams will receive $1.5 million they’ll put to use over the course of the next three years.
The project in Toronto, for starters, is being carried out by Mount Sinai Hospital. The project aims to create a urine-based test that would eliminate the need for unnecessary, invasive biopsies.
In Sherbrooke, Que., scientists are working on an enzyme-based diagnosis test that’ll help doctors decide which prostate cancers need to be treated and which can be closely watched for growth.
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Prostate cancer is much more difficult to manage once it has metastasized from the prostate gland. In Edmonton, researchers at the University of Alberta are working on a blood test that would identify when a prostate cancer has potential to leave the first affected region.
Right now, oncologists rely on blood biomarker tests that detect abnormalities, examinations so doctors can feel for any lumps and biopsies for analysis. But these processes don’t necessarily shed light on how lethal the prostate cancer is.
With the research, doctors hope their findings could help physicians distinguish between aggressive prostate cancers and benign ones. By the three-year mark, the researchers hope they’ll be at the clinical stages. They hope that ultimately, in five to 10 years, a blood test will be available.
Saving men from unnecessary cancer treatment could prolong their healthy lives: therapy can come with severe side effects such as incontinence and impotence. Patients also deal with nausea, lethargy and a weakened immune system.
“Going through treatment is not a very pleasurable experience. We’d be protecting them from that, too,” Edmonds said.
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If the prostate cancer is detected but isn’t worth intervening with medicine, Canadian men are put on medical surveillance for years and sometimes for a lifetime. If it worsens, doctors can begin treatment, Edmonds said.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in Canadian men and the second largest cause of male cancer deaths in Canada, according to the national organization.
One in seven men develop the disease in their lifetime. In 2013, 23,600 new cases of the disease were diagnosed.
Canadians are world leaders in raising money for the Movember movement. For the third year in a row, Canada sat at the top spot in fundraising.
Last year, $32 million was raised across the nation with Albertans raising almost a quarter of that amount.
Edmonds said he hopes that Canadians believe the investment announced Wednesday is a worthy cause.
“I don’t know of any other campaigns that have been this successful at putting men’s health at the forefront,” he told Global News.
“We want to save lives and we want to maintain the quality of life for men who go through the whole prostate cancer experience.”
© Shaw Media, 2014