What`s new in penile cancer research and treatment?
Since penile cancer is an uncommon disease in this country, it is hard to study. For example, it is hard to get large numbers of men to enroll in clinical trials to test newer forms of treatment, simply because there are fewer men with this type of cancer.
In some cases, laser therapy can cure or control the disease in its early stages and preserve the appearance and function of the penis. Research is being done to identify the best type of laser to use in these early tumors.
Doctors have looked at using different drugs to treat penile cancer, such as irinotecan (Camptosar®) and interferon. One drug being studied now is dacomitinib. This drug targets a protein called EGFR, and it has side effects that are different from traditional chemotherapy.
Scientists are learning much more about how certain genes called oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes control cell growth and how changes in these genes cause normal cells to become cancerous. The ultimate goal of this research is gene therapy -- replacing the damaged genes in cancer cells with normal genes to stop the abnormal behavior of these cells.
Learning more about these abnormal genes in penile cancer can also help guide use of targeted therapies. Targeted therapy is a term used for drugs that target certain cell changes and signals that are needed for a cancer to develop and keep growing. Targeted cancer therapies do not damage bone marrow or blood cells like most standard chemo drugs do. They can be used alone or along with other drugs and cancer treatments. Targeted therapy is still relatively new compared with other forms of cancer treatment, like surgery, radiation, or regular chemo.
These treatments have been helpful in treating some kinds of cancer, but not as much is known about the value of these new drugs in penile cancer, because penile cancer is so rare. There have been a few cases of advanced penile cancer in which doctors chose targeted therapies that are effective against cancers with cells similar to those of penile cancer. Preliminary results suggest some value, but more research is needed.
Vaccines that protect against infection with types of HPV linked to certain cancers have been developed. One of these, Gardasil, is now approved for use in young men to help prevent genital warts and anal cancer. While it has not yet been studied, the hope is that the vaccine may eventually help prevent other cancers linked to HPV in men, including penile cancers.
Last Medical Review: 12/06/2013
Last Revised: 12/11/2014