Annually, almost 58,000 men in Germany are diagnosed with prostate cancer. Since the PSA test (Prostate specific antigen) has been introduced, this kind of cancer is frequently diagnosed in an early stage when the cancer is still confined to a smaller part of the gland and not yet containing aggressive tissue.
However, so far this is not reflected in the treatment of prostate cancer. Although surgical removal of the entire prostate gland or radiation can heal the disease, some patients experience a permanent limitation of their quality of life in terms of urination or virility.
Until now, it has not sufficiently been researched, whether the immediate therapy of the usually slowly growing cancerous prostate cells could be replaced by a strategy of active surveillance or watchful waiting, in order to maintain the patient's quality of life as long as possible.
The medical study HAROW will deliver important insights into the topic: with various data on tumor characteristics, course of the disease and its perception, and the patient's quality of life, the study will observe and evaluate the five different methods to treat locally confined prostate cancer: hormonal therapy, active surveillance, radiotherapy, operation, and watchful waiting.
The results of the study will provide confidence for urologists in individual consultations. It is necessary to develop criteria which reliably indicate whether treatment needs to be started immediately or if it can be deferred. Criteria are to be found for cancer-surveillance, which will justify a continuation of surveillance or its termination in favour of treatment. It is necessary to broaden our knowledge of the connection between the various strategies and their benefits, their implications for the patient's quality of life, and their costs.
With 5,000 patients and a duration of five years, HAROW, which will start in 2008, will be the first large scale urologic study regarding prostate cancer in German-speaking countries. GAZPROM Germania supports the study with 5 million Euro, and thus allows for the study's independence from medical and pharmaceutical industries.