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New Tool May Help Prostate Cancer Patients Peer Into the Future

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When they tested their new method against the eight other tools, it was significantly more accurate at predicting outcomes after five years. They also tested it on what Kattan describes as a yardstick for telling the level of accuracy of such a tool. "On a scale ranging from zero, which is the same 50/50 accuracy of a coin toss, to one, which is like having a crystal ball, our tool was right in the middle," he tells WebMD.

They then repeated the experiment and got the same results, using data from a similar group of patients treated at The Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

Of all the variables, "PSA drives the boat, [but] it's not the sole predictor, and other factors can change the prediction." That's precisely why a tool like this, which takes several variables into account, is so important, Kattan tells WebMD.

Although this study looked at radiation therapy, says Kattan, "we've got similar tools that are optimized for predicting outcomes of prostate surgery and brachytherapy," which is a procedure where radioactive "seeds" are planted in the prostate. They all work the same way, he says, and the predictive value has been similar for all of treatment types.

According to Kattan, the early-stage prostate cancer patient is "a good example of someone who needs the most accurate prediction we can give. There are lots of cancers where you don't need that," he says, "because there's really only one default treatment, and it doesn't really matter too much how much it works because it's your only shot. Here, it's the opposite situation."

To make the right decision, patients need "to know how effective a treatment is going to be." This new tool "is essentially a formula, represented in a friendly format, that predicts early-stage prostate cancer treatment outcome more accurately than any of the others."

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