Prostate Cancer Clinical Trials and Research

Prostate Cancer Clinical Trials and Research


MSK is a major research institution. During your treatment for prostate cancer, your care team may ask if you want to join a clinical trial.

What is a clinical trial?

Clinical trials are research studies that test new treatments, procedures, or devices to see how well they work. They are an important part of helping to prevent, treat, and cure cancer. Almost every cancer treatment given to patients was first tested during a clinical trial.

MSK tests new treatments for prostate cancer. Treatment trials test new drugs, drug combinations, devices, and ways of doing procedures, surgery, or radiation therapy.

Sometimes a clinical trial gives you access to new therapies that are not yet available at most hospitals. Talk with your doctor about whether joining a clinical trial is right for you.

Clinical trials are designed to answer questions about:

  • Safety
  • Benefits
  • Side effects
  • Whether some people are helped more than others

MSK will start a clinical trial only if our researchers think we can improve methods for cancer:

  • Prevention
  • Treatment
  • Diagnosis
  • Screening

For more information, please read Clinical Trials at MSK: What You Need to Know.

MSK is developing or improving treatments for people with prostate cancer.

  • Our prostate cancer experts are part of a team ranked #1 in the nation for Urology Cancer Care in 2023 by U.S. News & World Report.
  • We discovered the prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA) in the early 1990s. PSMA is a protein expressed by prostate cancer tumors. Gene expression is how the information that’s in a gene turns into instructions for making a protein or other things.
  • MSK’s discovery of the PSMA protein was very important. By using the PSMA molecule, we can find prostate cancer earlier than ever before. We do this by injecting (putting) a radioactive tracer drug that attaches to PSMA proteins. This lets us see if someone has prostate cancer, and where it’s located. We can see if there’s prostate cancer by using an imaging test called a positron emission tomography (PET) scan. When the radioactive tracer binds to prostate cancer cells, they show up as bright spots. As a result, we can now see prostate cancer at levels that were previously invisible.
  • MSK played a leading role in clinical trials testing a radioactive tracer. It was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2021. The agent is called piflufolastat F 18 or PYLARIFY®. It’s given before a PET scan to screen for prostate cancer.
  • In addition to using the PSMA molecule to find prostate cancer earlier, we can use it to do targeted treatment. Our doctors led the clinical trials of PSMA-directed radiation. This agent (PLUVICTO®) delivers radiation directly to PSMA-positive cells. By using a targeted therapy like PLUVICTO, we can spare nearby healthy tissue. PLUVICTO is FDA approved for advanced prostate cancer that has become resistant to standard medications.

Current prostate cancer research at MSK

Our current research focuses on improving treatment options for people with prostate cancer. We’re researching ways to treat primary disease (cancer that has not spread) with fewer side effects, as well as novel therapies for more advanced cases of prostate cancer.

US News & World Report badge, Urology 2023-2024
MSK is a leader in theranostics — a way to diagnose and treat cancers by using radiotracers. Theranostics uses specific molecules, like PSMA, to find cancer and guide the delivery of targeted therapies. Drugs that target PSMA (also called radiopharmaceuticals) kill cancer cells while keeping nearby healthy tissue safe. We can deliver these therapies right to the cancer, which causes fewer side effects. Theranostics has also allowed us to treat very advanced cases of prostate cancer when standard drugs have stopped working.

Our surgeons are always studying new ways to improve the surgical treatment of prostate cancer, to help people live better and longer. For the past decade, we have studied robotic radical prostatectomy (the robotic removal of the prostate). This approach has led to less pain after surgery, fewer hernias, and better cancer control. We are currently looking at a new drug that makes nerves light up during a robotic prostatectomy. This may help surgeons better see the small nerves that support erections and spare them during surgery.

To treat cancer with less side effects, MSK is leading research on ablative treatment options. These are also known as focal therapiesAblation is a minimally invasive procedure done without any incisions (small cuts). This type of procedure uses a needle and energy to kill cancer cells. Ablation is becoming a more common way to treat cancer when it is in only one part of the prostate gland. It is designed to reduce the side effects of major treatment options, like surgery or radiation.

MSK experts are also looking at new ways to treat prostate cancer that comes back after radiation, which may offer fewer side effects than surgery. We are studying how safe and effective a light-based therapy is in getting rid of prostate cancer cells that have returned. 

Improving your quality of life, both during and after treatment, is important to us. We’re actively looking at ways improve cancer care, including things like biopsies, lymph node dissections, and even appointments. This includes studying ways to use mind-body therapies to help with relaxation, overall health, and well-being. Examples of mind-body therapies include acupuncture, meditation, and massage therapy.

At MSK, we’re committed to both treating prostate cancer and better understanding it. Our experts are researching if genetics influences your ability to remain on active surveillance for prostate cancer. We are also working to find new options for people whose cancer returns after treatment.

Our experts can help you choose a clinical trial that’s right for you. Here are some of our newly opened clinical trials:

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27 Clinical Trials found