San Antonio studies seek to understand who – and how fast – prostate cancer will strike

SAN ANTONIO (Dec. 28, 2010) — Faced with a prostate cancer diagnosis and told he needed an immediate operation, Harold Simmons decided to find a doctor who was “a little less anxious to do surgery.” His search led him to a study at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Two years after diagnosis, Simmons is receiving first-rate medical care, even as he helps the Health Science Center’s physician-researchers learn more about biological cues – called biomarkers – that predict whether a man will get prostate cancer and whether the cancer requires treatment.

The science-minded Simmons appreciates being part of the research process. “I’m an engineer,” said Simmons, 70. “We don’t panic.”

The Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC) at the UT Health Science Center is home to nationally recognized leaders in prostate cancer research, and San Antonio patients can benefit from their expertise. The CTRC is currently enrolling patients for three studies aiming to find a blood or urine test that would read prostate cancer biomarkers.

“About 1,300 men each year in the San Antonio metropolitan area are diagnosed with prostate cancer,” said Ian M. Thompson Jr., CTRC director and principal investigator on the studies. “The men who participate in these studies are both advancing scientific knowledge and receiving the best possible care.”

Every man has a good chance of developing prostate cancer later in life, and early diagnosis is key to stopping its progression. However, while more than 90 percent of U.S. men diagnosed with prostate cancer are treated, Dr. Thompson said, not every man with prostate cancer needs radical treatments that can cause unpleasant side effects like incontinence and impotence.

For the multi-institutional Prostate Active Surveillance Study (PASS), in which Dr. Thompson is a lead investigator, the ultimate goal is to find a test that would predict the man whose known, apparently low-risk prostate cancer is at risk for becoming more aggressive. Patients have their prostate cancer closely monitored, with the offer of treatment if there is evidence of cancer growth

“I see lots and lots of people with prostate cancer each year. I know that many of these men will never have a problem with their cancer,” Dr. Thompson said. “We’re looking to really only treat those people that need it.”

Dr. Thompson is also principal investigator for the study Simmons is in, called Identification of Protein and Genetic Biomarkers of Prostate Cancer and risk factors for progression of disease (PREF). It’s a study that began initially with pilot resources from the institutional Presidential Research Excellence Fund — PREF — and is now supported by the National Cancer Institute.

The goal of PREF is to find biomarkers that predict which men will develop a cancer and which won’t. Dr. Thompson is also principal investigator for the San Antonio Center of Biomarkers of Risk for Prostate Cancer, or SABOR, which is designed to discover markers that tell which man has cancer and which doesn’t.

To participate in the PASS study, men must have been a diagnosis of prostate cancer, and have not yet been treated for it. The only eligibility criteria for PREF are that the patient have had a diagnosis of prostate cancer in the past and be able to give consent. SABOR participants are healthy men without a history of prostate cancer who participate in a study to develop new tests for prostate cancer. To be eligible, African American must be over 40 or have a positive family history of prostate cancer because these factors increase the risk of prostate cancer. All other men are eligible for SABOR if they have no prostate cancer diagnosis and are 50 years of age or older.

For more information about participating in PREF or SABOR, call 210-567-0214 or 1-800-335-4594.

For more information about participating in PASS, contact Linda Hernandez at 210-450-9658.

The Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is one of the elite academic cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute (NCI) Designated Cancer Center, and is one of only four in Texas. A leader in developing new drugs to treat cancer, the CTRC Institute for Drug Development (IDD) conducts one of the largest oncology Phase I clinical drug programs in the world, and participates in development of cancer drugs approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. For more information, visit

Share This Article!