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What’s New in Penile Cancer Research?

Penile cancer is rare in this country, so it's hard to study. Still, research on penile cancer is being done in many university hospitals, medical centers, and other institutions around the world. Most experts agree that treatment in a clinical trial should be considered for any type or stage of penile cancer. This way men can get the best treatment available now and may also get the new treatments that are thought to be even better. The new and promising treatments discussed here are only available in clinical trials.

Drugs to treat penile cancer

Doctors are also looking at different chemotherapy drugs to treat penile cancer, especially later-stage cancers and those that don't respond to or come back after treatment.

Learning more about the gene changes linked to penile cancer might 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 therapies might sometimes work when standard chemo drugs don’t, and they tend to have different (and often less severe) side effects from most standard chemo drugs.

But it’s not yet clear how useful these or other targeted drugs might be for penile cancer. Early results suggest some benefit, but more research is needed.

Treating lymph nodes

At this time, there's no known best way to treat penile cancer that has spread to nearby lymph nodes. International studies are looking at how to best combine surgery, radiation, and chemo, as well as the best order in which to use these treatments.

Another research interest is finding good ways to find even tiny bits of cancer in the lymph nodes. Studies are looking at imaging tests like PET scans, MRIs, and ultrasound to find affected nodes. This would help direct treatment and potentially improve treatment outcomes.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as editors and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Dorff TB, Ballas LK, Schuckman AK. Current Management Strategy for Penile Cancer and Future Directions. Curr Oncol Rep. 2017;19(8):54.

Leone A, Diorio GJ, Pettaway C, Master V, Spiess PE. Contemporary management of patients with penile cancer and lymph node metastasis. Nat Rev Urol. 2017;14(6):335-347.  

Last Revised: June 25, 2018

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