In News

By Alexander Browning, Queensland University of Technology

Prostate cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in men. It resulted in the deaths of just over 3000 Australian men in 2012 (ABS). Despite its prevalence there is still controversy in medical circles surrounding the treatment and management of prostate cancer. One such treatment is called Androgen Deprivation Therapy (ADT). ADT can be administered as a drug, and works by restricting the production of hormones known as androgens (including testosterone), that the cancer relies on to grow. This treatment however is not without severe side effects, which can include increased risk of fractures and strokes, and decreased masculinity.

Some researchers argue that men who take treatment holidays do no worse than those who take the treatment continuously. This project aims to build on the work of a particular researcher, Laurence Klotz, and attempt to model and explain why it may be unnecessary to take the treatment continuously. Klotz presented his hypothesis in a paper, on which the model was based on.

Taking the treatment continuously caries with it all the side effects, and an increased cost. The ability to determine how to maximise the welfare of the patient by minimising the time on the treatment is of importance in improving the lifestyle of men living with prostate cancer.

The mathematical model formulated in this project allowed analysis into both the short and long term behaviour suggested by Klotz’s hypothesis. It suggested that intermittent treatment brings with it periodic behaviour, the characteristics of which were calculated. The research was also able to show that an optimal treatment regime may be able to be calculated. It was found that it may be possible to mathematically optimise the way intermittent androgen derivation is applied, to minimise the cancer cell population in the long term. The short and long term behaviour of the cancer with continuous and intermittent androgen deprivation therapy was explored, and mathematical expressions formulated to relate the time on the treatment to the long term cancer cell population.


Alexander Browning was one of the recipients of a 2014/15 AMSI Vacation Research Scholarship.