Publish Date: 
Friday, August 29, 2014 - 10:00

prostate cancer drugs made more effective

More than 20,000 Australian men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year – and the disease kills 3,300 annually.

“The death rate of men from prostate cancer is higher than the death rate in women from breast cancer,” said QUT professor Colleen Nelson, who heads the country’s largest centre researching the disease.

More than a quarter of patients develop the most aggressive form of the disease, where it spreads outside the prostate – often into bones, resulting in great pain and increased risk of bone stress and fractures.

While treatments – known as androgen targeted therapies – are available for patients with the more aggressive form, Prof Nelson says the cancer can become resistant to them.

And the treatments themselves create a Pandora’s Box of new problems.

“These drugs are extending life but because they are targeting the production or action of testosterone, they induce a number of side-effects."
“They can include type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular challenges, decreased bone density and muscle mass," Prof Nelson said.

In a cruel irony, the therapies can even create new hormone pathways for the tumours to grow and spread.

“As soon as you abruptly remove all the testosterone from a man, he gets completely rebooted from a hormonal point of view,” Prof Nelson said.

This metamorphosis factor is one of the reasons researchers call prostate cancer the “master of disguise” among diseases.

Colleen Nelson
Prof Nelson and her 70-strong team at the Australian Prostate Cancer Research Centre – Queensland, based in the Translational Research Institute at Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital, are developing new drugs which will slow down the disease without the adverse results.

The new drugs are at proof-of-concept stage, a huge effort being funded through a Movember Revolutionary Team Award of $4.5 million. (Yes, being sponsored to grow a moustache each year really does help.)

"I would hope in three years we have enough pre-clinical proof of the principles that we can look to evaluate in human trials," she said.

“We have a hopeful sense that while we are still seeking a cure, we might be able to manage the disease with the technologies we have and new drugs so that we can turn it into a chronic disease – so men can live out their lives managing it as they would with any chronic disease.

“It really changes our mindset. With most other types of cancer, it’s always about a cure.

“This is about how to approach the disease management and give people the best quality of life.”

Learn more at

Read the full Courier Mail article 25 Ideas to Change the World