Jeanny B. Aragon-Ching, MD, is the clinical program director of genitourinary cancers at the Inova Schar Cancer Institute. She is board certified in medical oncology, hematology and internal medicine and has a special interest in caring for patients with prostate, bladder, kidney and testicular cancers.
The doctors and researchers at the Inova Schar Cancer Institute are committed to providing cutting-edge treatment to our patients. When it comes to genitourinary cancers (GU), we have a lot of promising new treatments and research advances to keep track of.
“GU cancer” is a term that describes cancer of the prostate, testicles, bladder and kidneys. In February, GU specialists from around the world came together at the annual Genitourinary Cancer Symposium in San Francisco to share the latest research findings and news of new treatments.
As in past years, I was involved in the planning committees and co-chaired education and abstract sessions at the event. This is a field where scientists are making rapid progress in developing new treatments and diagnostic tools, and it’s so rewarding to be a part of this annual meeting of the minds.
Among the most exciting findings from this year’s symposium:
Prostate Cancer: After treatment for prostate cancer, some men have blood levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) that continue to rise, even though there’s no sign that the cancer has metastasized, or spread, to other parts of the body. (PSA is a protein that is often elevated in men with this common type of cancer.)
Unfortunately, we haven’t had many good options for treating men in this category. We often treat them with hormone injections, but many men continue to experience rising PSA despite those treatments. In some cases, their cancer may return and spread.
At this year’s symposium, researchers shared evidence that two drugs can successfully delay the appearance of metastases in men with rising PSA who are resistant to these hormone injections. The results are really exciting, and we expect that these medications will become the new standard for treating men in this group.
Bladder Cancer: Some patients with bladder cancer do well with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation. For others, surgical removal of the bladder is the best choice. Yet we don’t always know which treatments will be most successful for a given patient. Now, researchers are making progress toward identifying so-called biomarkers – substances in the blood or within a tumor cell that can give us clues about how a patient’s cancer will respond to a particular treatment. Though this research is still in early stages, it’s a promising step toward designing more targeted, personalized treatments for each of our patients.
Kidney Cancer: For patients with kidney cancer, we often use a group of drugs known as VEGF inhibitors (short for “vascular endothelial growth factor inhibitors”). These medications slow the growth of the blood vessels that feed tumors. New research presented at the symposium shows that in patients with advanced kidney cancer, combining VEGF inhibitors with newer immunotherapy drugs can improve disease progression compared to VEGF inhibitors alone.
Immunotherapy uses parts of a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer cells. This class of medication is showing great results for treating a number of different types of cancers. While immunotherapy hasn’t been approved as a first-line therapy for advanced kidney cancer yet, I expect immunotherapy options for these patients are just over the horizon. This new development could really change the treatment landscape for people with kidney disease.
When you’re treated at Inova, we deliver the highest quality care and offer the newest, most promising treatments. My colleagues and I always keep an eye out for the latest research findings. And in many cases, we help test new and innovative treatments with clinical trials right here at Inova. Participating in research and staying active in these major symposia allow us to offer the very latest treatments to our patients while we help move the field of genitourinary cancer treatment forward.