Regular blood tests for prostate cancer patients could significantly increase their chances of survival, according to a study.

  • A blood test could be used to determine if a patient is allergic to a commonly-used medication.
  • It could be used to transfer the patient to another medication to help with their cancer.
  • Researchers collected blood from 56 prostate cancer patients. 

New research shows that regular blood tests could help patients with prostate cancer to improve their long-term survival chances.

Blood tests can be done before and after chemotherapy to help doctors determine if a patient has developed resistance to docetaxel, a widely-used drug.

They may be able to change the patient’s treatment without having to perform painful biopsies.

Docetaxel is a treatment that significantly increases survival rates for prostate cancer patients who have spread to other areas of their bodies.

Having blood tests before and during chemotherapy could help doctors detect whether or not their patient is resistant or developing resistance to docetaxel - a commonly-used drug

Doctors could conduct blood tests prior to and during chemotherapy in order to determine if their patient has developed resistance or is responding well.

Barts Cancer Institute, Queen Mary University of London conducted a new study that examined blood markers for cancer known as “circulating tumor cells” (CTCs).

CTCs refer to cancer cells which have reached the bloodstream either from the initial cancer site, or tumours surrounding the area where it has spread.

They collected blood from 56 men with advanced prostate cancer being treated at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London.

Samples were collected over six- to eight months. They covered time between the start of docetaxel treatment and their last dose.

They looked specifically at patterns among the data of men who received treatment for their cancer and those who didn’t. Also, which type of cancer was advanced?

The results showed that men with more than six CTCs in their bloodstreams before receiving their second dose of chemotherapy were at greater risk for their illness. They also had a higher chance of dying within the first 18 months.

However, those with fewer than six CTCs in 7.5ml blood had the best chance of surviving for at least 17 months. They also had an average survival rate of 3 years.

CTCs that were high at the close of treatment indicate that patients are more likely to die sooner and have a greater chance of spreading their disease.

Caitlin Davis, the lead researcher of the study said, “Using these patterns we can apply them future patients with the aim to predict if they will respond therapy and pre-emptively determine the best course to have maximum benefit.

“For instance, an increased number of CTCs may be indicative that treatment is ineffective.

“Furthermore we monitor the appearance of drug-resistant CTCs so that treatment options can be changed early. This allows us to change treatments in a personalized and timely way. 

Tissue biopsies, which are taken from the tissue of the prostate and other body parts, can currently be used to determine how advanced it might have become. These can be very painful and can take as long as 10 days to get results.

CTCs can be detected in blood samples using a liquid biopsy. The process is quick and painless.

Now, the scientists plan to examine how they could conduct a clinical study on patients in order to validate their results.

Hashim Ahmed is the chairperson of the NCRI Prostate Group and professor of Urology at Imperial College London. He said that these promising results could change clinical practice if further research confirms them.

The ability to assess the tumor’s responsiveness to chemotherapy by using blood tests allows clinicians and other healthcare professionals to customize cancer treatment without the need for invasive procedures, such as tissue biopsy.

It could help patients avoid having to go through painful systemic treatments which are likely to fail. 


It kills how many people? 

In Britain, more than 11800 men are affected by this disease each year. This compares to the 11,400 breast cancer victims.

This means that prostate cancer ranks second to bowel and lung in the number of people who are killed by it in Britain. 

It kills approximately 26,000 Americans each year.

However, the organization receives only half the funding for breast cancer research and treatment is still a long way behind.

It develops how quickly? 

Prostate cancer usually develops slowly, so there may be no signs someone has it for many years, according to the NHS. 

It is possible to adopt a policy for ‘active surveillance’ or ‘watchful waiting’ if cancer is in its early stages and does not cause symptoms. 

It is possible to cure some people if they are treated early.

If it is diagnosed later, after it has spread to other parts of the body, it can become terminal. Treatment revolves around symptoms.

Because of known side effects, such as erectile disorder and erectile dysfunction that are associated with treatment, many men delay seeking out a diagnosis.

Testing and Treatment

Prostate cancer tests are difficult to perform, and accurate tools are just starting to appear. 

Because the results of prostate cancer screening tests are too inexact, there is no national program.

The difficulty for doctors in identifying the difference between serious and non-aggressive tumours makes it difficult to make a decision about treatment.

Men over 50 are eligible for a ‘PSA’ blood test which gives doctors a rough idea of whether a patient is at risk.

However, it’s not reliable. A biopsy is usually provided to patients who have a positive test result. This also makes it less reliable. 

While scientists don’t know what causes prostate carcinoma, they do know that age, obesity, and inactivity are all possible risk factors. 

If you have any questions, please call Prostate Cancer UK’s Specialist Nurses on 0800 744 8383. Or visit