New study seeks to predict if or when early prostate cancer will turn aggressive

SAN ANTONIO (October 23, 2008)— The Cancer Therapy & Research Center at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio has begun enrolling participants in a national study that aims to better target treatment of cancer by identifying and validating biomarkers of high-risk prostate cancer.

The Prostate Active Surveillance Study (PASS) is the first systematic surveillance program of men with prostate cancer to look for biological clues to help determine when to wait and when to treat the disease. It is supported by a partnership between the Canary Foundation, a nonprofit organization that funds research in early cancer detection, and the National Cancer Institute’s Early Detection Research Network (EDRN).

“During my 30 years of work in this field, we see about one opportunity each decade to fundamentally change and improve the treatment of prostate cancer; this is clearly the single most important study for this period,” observes Ian M. Thompson, Jr., MD, professor and chair of the Department of Urology who holds both the Smith Dielmann Memorial Chair at the UT Health Science Center as well as the Gary and Glenda Woods Distinguished Chair in GU Oncology at the CTRC.

The leader of the San Antonio arm of the study at the CTRC’s Genitourinary Clinic adds, “I predict that we will see the day when, for most men with prostate cancer, no treatment will be necessary, as a result of the participation of men in this study, the vision of the Canary Foundation and the National Cancer Institute, and the tremendous support of the CTRC and the Health Science Center in San Antonio.”

This study will enroll at least 400 participants in San Antonio and at five other institutions in the United States and Canada: Stanford University, the University of California at San Francisco, the University of British Columbia, the University of Washington and the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care Center.

Participants will come not from the general population, but from previous studies in which men have elected active surveillance, or close monitoring, of prostate cancer with the offer of treatment if and when there are changes in test results or when symptoms occur.

The participants will be closely followed with routine prostate-specific antigen (PSA) measurements, prostate examinations and prostate biopsies. Blood, urine and tissue samples will be collected on a regular basis, stored and tested for proteins or other markers in the blood or tissue that can signal aggressive versus slow-growing and lower-risk tumors.

In North America, prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among men. Many cases of prostate cancer would not be lethal if left untreated, yet physicians are currently unable to accurately predict which cases can be safely left untreated. Consequently, the majority of men with prostate cancer are ultimately treated when the evidence suggests that many of these men may not require therapy. Radiation therapy and surgery, the most common forms of treatment, can have side effects, such as bowel problems, impotence and incontinence. The PASS study is designed to identify and confirm markers that will accurately predict if or when an early-stage prostate tumor will become aggressive, identifying as well those men who are least likely to have problems with their tumors and who may be best treated with systematic surveillance alone.

About the Canary Foundation. The Canary Foundation is a nonprofit dedicated to the goal of identifying cancer early through a simple blood test and then isolating it with imaging. Since 2004, Canary has raised more than $27.9 million and committed $15.4 million to early detection research. Its collaborative research programs span multiple disciplines and institutions. All donations go to early detection research activities. For more information, please visit

About the NCI Early Detection Research Network. The Early Detection Research Network (EDRN), an initiative of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), brings together dozens of institutions to help accelerate the translation of biomarker information into clinical applications and to evaluate new ways of testing cancer in its earliest stages and for cancer risk. Additional information can be found at

The Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is one of the nation’s leading academic research and treatment centers, serving more than 4.4 million people in the high-growth corridor of Central and South Texas including Austin, San Antonio, Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley. CTRC is one of a few elite cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-Designated Cancer Center, and is one of only three in Texas. CTRC handles more than 120,000 patient visits each year and is a world leader in developing new drugs to treat cancer. The CTRC Institute for Drug Development (IDD) is internationally recognized for conducting the largest oncology Phase I clinical drug studies program in the world. IDD has participated in the clinical and/or preclinical development of many of the cancer drugs approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. For more information, visit

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