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Online Prostate Cancer Patient Tracking Database Launches

Stuart Holden (Cedars-Sinai Medical Center)

Stuart Holden (Cedars-Sinai Medical Center)

An online database to help men track the progression of their prostate cancer started yesterday to help patients avoid complications from overtreatment. The new program is part of the National Proactive Surveillance Network, a joint project of the Prostate Cancer Foundation, Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

The database aims to enable men diagnosed with slow-growing forms of the disease to track their disease in a Web-based patient portal. Stuart Holden, director of the Cedars-Sinai prostate cancer center (pictured left), says “as many as 50 percent of newly diagnosed prostate cancer patients have a form of the disease that is so slow-growing that it often does not pose a threat to the life or long term health of the patient.” In this situation, patients often chose immediate and aggressive treatment, says Holden, but this kind of treatment can lead to in complications such as impotence and incontinence, diminishing quality of life while not increasing the patient’s lifespan.

Many physicians are now recommending an alternative proactive surveillance option, where patients thought to have early-stage or slow-growing forms of the disease are closely monitored, which is the goal of the National Proactive Surveillance Network’s tracking database. Patients joining this network will have annual prostate biopsies, answer lifestyle and nutrition questionnaires, and record their medical histories. The database would track changes in their disease, allowing patients to decide if and when they need to change the course of their treatment.

This network’s organizers say it is the first comprehensive clinical data and tissue collection from a group of men with early-stage, low-volume prostate cancer. Data collected by the network will be kept anonymous, to protect patient privacy, while still allowing researchers to analyze trends as well as patient commonalities and differences.

Researchers will be able to examine and test the tissue to discover changes that indicate if patients have slow- or fast-growing forms of prostate cancer. Patient samples, including biopsy tissue, blood, and urine, also will be collected and analyzed at two locations — Johns Hopkins Medicine on the east coast and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in the west — and made available for future prostate cancer studies.

“This database will eventually give us a better way to predict which men benefit from treatment,” says Holden, “and which men will not be harmed by choosing to defer treatment.”

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