Movember: Bringing Awareness to Diseases like Prostate Cancer, One Mustache at a Time

November 5, 2015

movember featured imageAre you starting to see your clean-shaven male friends, family members, and co-workers growing mustaches this month? It’s not just the latest fashion trend in personal grooming. You may have heard of the health awareness campaign Movember, where men grow out their mustaches to raise funds and awareness for men’s health. One of the main focal points of this campaign is prostate cancer.

According to the Movember website, prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men worldwide, with the number of cases expected to almost double to 1.7 million by 2030. It is also the most commonly diagnosed cancer and is a leading cause of death in men in developed countries. Additionally, the death rate among African American men is two times higher than any other ethnic group.

Although prostate cancer affects the lives of many men, awareness of the disease still needs to be expanded. The Mayo Clinic says in its early stages, prostate cancer may not show any signs or symptoms. However, once advanced, the following signs may be present:

  • Trouble urinating
  • Decreased force in the stream of urine
  • Blood in the semen
  • Discomfort in the pelvic area
  • Bone pain
  • Erectile dysfunction

Ratna Chakrabarti, Ph.D., cancer researcher at the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, was recently interviewed for our Faculty Feature. Her area of interest is prostate cancer and she explained the cycle of treatment for patients with the disease.

“Prostate cancer is a slow-growing tumor in the beginning. The way to find an aggressive tumor, or someone having prostate cancer, is very erroneous. There are not many tests available, and even with the tests that are available [prostate-specific antigen or PSA], they are not that good at predicting whether a person will develop prostate cancer or not.”

She further explained that when patients come in for treatment, there’s a waiting game: waiting for the tumor to grow.

“The first line of therapy is operation [radical prostatectomy]. This procedure takes care of the majority of the patients,” says Chakrabarti.

After surgery, the five-year survival rate is 98.9 percent. Most prostate cancer is localized, so prostate removal is an effective treatment.

“Some patients develop a recurrence of the disease. When this occurs, they are given hormone therapy to inhibit prostate cancer cell growth, but some patients do not respond. Even when some patients do respond to the therapy, after a year or so, they develop tremendous resistance,” Chakrabarti noted.

Advanced prostate cancer occurs when it metastasizes, or when cancer cells spread throughout the body. It can also develop in patients who have used hormone therapies such as Androgen Deprivation Treatment (ADT) to no avail, resulting in a more aggressive type of prostate cancer called castrate-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC). Chakrabarti’s research focuses on this type of cancer, for which there is currently no cure. For advanced prostate cancer, the five-year survival rate drops to 28 percent.

So, during the month of November, if you see someone you know that’s become recently mustachioed, be reminded that prostate cancer affects thousands of men across the world. But hope is on the horizon. The work of dedicated researchers such as Chakrabarti is bringing us much closer to a cure.

If you’re interested in becoming a partner to develop this technology for further use, Chakrabarti’s prognostic marker technology is available for licensing. For more information, please contact Brion Berman.