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Chemotherapy - why only palliative?

Posted 04 Aug 2014 at 10:23

Morning all,

Along with some others, I'm soon to start the "How Genes Influence Cancer Development" course and have been sent an eBook as preparatory reading.

This eBook book discusses how cancer (general) starts off up to and including Mets.

All good stuff, I will need to read it a few times as a lot of it is currently over my head.


However, the book discusses cancer in the general sense but is not specific for PCa.

As a general rule of thumb as a layman the perceived treatments are Radio Therapy and / or Chemotherapy. 

But for PCa, Chemo is used as palliative only. Many other cancers use Chemo for curative therapy.

After reading the book the implication is that the genesis of all cancers are similar and they use similar mechanisms for propagation.

So if the pathways PCa uses for growth are generally comparative to other cancers why is Chemo not used for curative purposes?

I'm guessing that the book is too general and when peeling back a few layers the subtlety of PCa and how it operates will give clarity. 


When I was diagnosed I dropped into the treatment groove and I've accepted the treatment path as being HT -> RP /RT with no Chemo until mets (major generalisation) but I don't understand why.

Plus I've always felt a bit weird when explaining that to concerned fiends / well wishers as I don't really have the answer other than "it's only used for palliative purposes"


Anyone have any ideas?

Inquisitive minds want to know, even if they are bogged down by HT http://community.prostatecanceruk.org/editors/tiny_mce/plugins/emoticons/img/smiley-laughing.gif





Posted 04 Aug 2014 at 11:52
Despite public perception, there are very few cancers that can be cured with chemo alone - lymphoma and leukaemia etc. More often, chemo is used in conjunction with another treatment to help prevent it from coming back (breast cancer and bowel cancer for example) so although we perceive that a woman has been cured of breast cancer by surgery, RT and chemo, in actual fact the chemo's contribution is to weaken remaining cells in an attempt to get her a good long remission.

Enjoy the course.

"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards." Soren Kierkegaard

Posted 04 Aug 2014 at 14:17

Ah, thanks Lyn,

so it's perception vs. reality. I wasn't aware that similar to PCa treatments for many other cancers are palliative for chemo.



I will make it my mission to try and understand why chemo can be used as curative for some cancers but not others.

It'll keep me off the streets http://community.prostatecanceruk.org/editors/tiny_mce/plugins/emoticons/img/smiley-cool.gif 


It's interesting that leukaemia and lymphoma are chemo responsive and are both cancers of the 'wet' parts of the body.

I think I'm going to enjoy this course!


Again thanks.



Posted 04 Aug 2014 at 18:49

Perhaps after the course you could share a few 'bullet points' of what you have learned.

Since diagnosis I keep all newspaper articles etc on all cancers/new treatments for future reference.

The more we all know the better.

Good Luck.


Posted 04 Aug 2014 at 19:00

Hi Kevin,


According to Dr Patrick Walsh in his book "Surviving Prostate Cancer" 3rd ed., it seems to be because, in comparison to leukemia and testicular cancer, prostrate cells are pretty sluggish in their proliferation and so "have time to repair any hits caused by chemotherapy".


He quotes that with testicular cancer 60% of cells are typically proliferating (dividing) at any one time. With breast cancer it's 20% but with prostate cancer it's only 5%.







Posted 04 Aug 2014 at 20:11

There are also many different Chemo drugs. The discovery that platinum based chemo can cure metastatic testicular cancer was a major breakthrough that reversed the death rate from 95% to 5%. Just need them to invent the one that hits PCa http://community.prostatecanceruk.org/editors/tiny_mce/plugins/emoticons/img/smiley-cool.gif

Nil desperandum


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