Prostate Cancer Notes and Notable – Dr. Tomasz Beer, Chair for Prostate Cancer Research Deputy Director, OHSU Knight Cancer Institute

Dr. Tomasz Beer, interviewed for Drug Market Info Prostate Cancer Notes and NotableDrug Market Info presents Prostate Cancer Notes & Notable, an interview series with leading voices in the fight to cure Prostate Cancer. (For more data on Prostate Cancer, see the Drug Market Info Prostate Cancer Fact Sheet)

Today’s interview is with Dr. Tomasz Beer, M.C., F.A.C.P.,  a medical oncologist who holds the Grover C. Bagby Endowed Chair for Prostate Cancer Research and leads a research and clinical trial program at Oregon Health and Science University Knight Cancer Institute, and who specializes in the treatment of prostate cancer. Dr. Beer has been in practice for 15 years and is the author of hundreds of medical publications. He recently co-authored a new book entitled Cancer Clinical Trials: A Commonsense Guide to Experimental Cancer Therapies and Clinical Trials (which will be discussed in tomorrow’s blog post).  Here are his comments on treating prostate cancer:

How long have you been working with prostate cancer?

I have worked with prostate cancer for 15 years and have been actively involved in more than 100 clinical trials for prostate cancer.

What is the most difficult issue(s) for patients with regard to prostate cancer treatment and how does this get addressed?

I don’t think there is a simple answer to this question. For many men, it’s the decision about initial treatment following diagnosis. The choice between surgery, radiation, and observation is very challenging. In advanced disease, it’s often about managing the side effects of treatment to preserve quality of life.

The treatment armamentarium for prostate cancer has recently expanded significantly. How is this changing the actual treatment approach?

There are many more treatment options for advanced disease. When prostate cancer becomes resistant to standard hormonal therapy, we now have a number of life-extending options. That is brand new and very good news.

With all the changes, where do you see a drug like Provenge fitting into the treatment scheme?

Provenge offers a survival advantage for men with metastatic, castration-resistant prostate cancer that are free of symptoms or nearly free of symptoms. The sequence of treatments is in such rapid evolution, that we need to keep paying attention to this question. Because immuno-suppressing drugs may interfere with a response to Provenge, the timing of Provenge treatment needs to consider not only the patient’s condition but also other treatment before and after Provenge. Ideally, patients should not receive steroids or other immuno-suppressive drugs for 3 months before and after Provenge.

In your experience, what percentage of men with prostate cancer agree to enter a clinical trial and does this differ by disease stage? How does this compare to other types of cancer?

I work in a university setting, so the folks I meet may be more inclined to consider trials. In choosing us, they may have expressed an openness to clinical trials, so I don’t know if my experience reflects that of all. Having said that, in our practice more than half of our patients are open to clinical trials and around 25 to 30% end up participating. The level of interest is very high and I think that is true at all stages of the disease.

How do you feel about the proposed changes to the PSA screening recommendations and what do patients generally want to do about annual screenings?

I think men need to understand both the potential benefits and risks of early detection. I don’t think we should be discouraging screening. I think we should be discouraging screening without a balanced and thorough discussion. New data from additional follow-up of the European study are showing more favorable results than initially reported and I would think that the USPSTF should consider these new data and think about these tough issues some more.

What should new drug developers keep in mind as they develop new therapies for prostate cancer?

With so much progress over the last few years, it would be easy to think that prostate cancer is saturated with new drugs. This is not so. Men are still dying of the disease and we need to continue to strive to make progress until that changes. The field is more complicated and new drugs need to be quite a bit better than current drugs to compete, but the need remains.

And last, tell us a bit about your new book?

Co-authored with Larry Axmaker, a cancer survivor and clinical trial participant, the book, Cancer Clinical Trials: A Commonsense Guide to Experimental Cancer Therapies and Clinical Trials, is designed to demystify clinical trials for cancer patients and their families and loved ones. The book provides an easy to read and understandable, yet comprehensive guide to clinical trials and aims to help people develop a foundation of knowledge, make an informed and thoughtful decision about the role of clinical trials in their care, and navigate through the experience of being a participant. For more information, please visit the authors’ blog and to take a look at the book directly, please visit


Posted on May 17, 2012, in Notes and Notables, Patients' Perspective, Prostate Cancer and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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