Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Why treating prostate cancer is a guessing game.

I think that most failures of conventional treatments with a Gleason 3+3=6 is due to the mis-reading of the Gleason score or other diagnostic items. It is my belief that if we had a true 3+3 and nothing else, no 4 or 5, no spread, nodes not involved, no extra capsular penetration, no margins (in surgery), small volume of tumor - at the hands of an "expert" the person is 100% curable.

Every failure may the fault of mis-diagnosis or unknowns.

PSA is a very unreliable gage of the cancer at the time of early diagnosis. The higher the Gleason the lower the PSA. For example we can have a Gleason score of 8, 9 or 10 and have a PSA of 1 or so. On the other hand we could have a PSA of 10 or so with a Gleason of 3+3=6.

We look at doubling time of PSA as being an important findings. However with a Gleason score of 8, 9 or 10 and a low PSA - the doubling time may be very long. With a Gleason 3+3=6 the doubling time can be short or long.

Why the difference - the difference may be in the tertiary grade. For example if we had a high Gleason (8, 9 or 10) and no tertiary grade we would always have a low PSA and probably a low doubling time. In addition there are places in the Gland that cannot be reached by our normal needle biopsy. These could have lots of tumor of high grades and we don't even know it.

If any gland had any Gleason grade 3 in it (regardless of reported grades) than we could have a higher PSA and a higher doubling time.

Two more important variables:
1. The volume of the tumor could make a large difference and what is the grade of that volume. One could have a 3+3=6 with a very small spot and a 3+3=6 where their is a lot of cancer. Two different diagnosis with two different treatment considerations.

2. Prostate cancer has many different cell variations. We know that some cell types will respond differently to different treatments (this is never taken into consideration by the doctors in their diagnosis - there is no lab tests that are commonly used to show this. I believe the cell types would apply to different Gleason Grades and perhaps different growth patterns and different production of PSA. There may be 30 or more different types. And there is no known attempt to type cells and study the differences.

The doctor only works with the known diagnostic information and makes decisions, based on studies, of these known findings. If there is no higher Grades reported, if there is no reported volume of all grades, if there is no known "variants" (see http://www.cancer.prostate-help.org/capathl.htm), etc., etc. etc. he is very limited in recommending treatments based on studies.

Any study based on the initial diagnosis is short of diagnostic information and is only as reliable as the doctor or doctors who report the findings. If you show a sample of gland tissue to 10 different pathologist you would get many opinions and readings. If you send the same blood to many different labs you would get many different readings. And these differences could all be significant.

Now when you consider that a CT scan is worthless unless there is massive tumors growing elsewhere in the body. Then you consider there may well be bone tumors (prostate cancer of the bone) that are yet too small to be seen with our present procedures. One may well have a spread of the disease that can not be seen or diagnosed with any reliability. In these procedures the only thing you know when they report negative findings is simply that they did not see any - not that it wasn't there.

With the guessing game we have - you see why I believe that prostate cancer should always be treated with more than one modality of treatment.

We simply don't know with our present diagnostic procedures how really sick a man might be with this disease and why sometimes a man is only diagnosed when he experiences a high level of bone pain - and then it is too late.