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Prostate cancer in the elderly

A 2018/2019 Summer Studentship research project

Men diagnosed with prostate cancer when they are over 70 years old may not be referred for treatment, when this was available. Treatment is not always appropriate, but in some situations it is important. We aim to better define who is being offered treatment, and who is not, and develop a robust protocol for managing prostate cancer in the elderly.

Student: Alastair Hercus
Supervisors: Dr Scott Babington, Dr Hilde Wlzak, Dr Ben Hindson, Dr Brendon Anderson
Sponsor: TBC

How to apply

Contact the first supervisor, Dr Scott Babington, to express your interest:

Ext 80023

Project brief


Currently treatment of prostate cancer in men aged over 70 years is variable. Some may not have a biopsy (raised PSA alone), some will have a biopsy and no further treatment (watchful waiting) and some may be considered for treatment (surgery, or more likely radiation therapy with/without hormone therapy. Whilst co-morbidity is a major determinant of survival both from prostate cancer and in general, this is not always taken into account.


We propose to assess all men aged over 70 years old, referred to urology service at Christchurch Public Hospital between 2015 and 2017 inclusively.


We will review the Health Connect South, and where required Christchurch Hospital medical record, of all men aged 70 or over diagnosed with prostate cancer in the calendar years 2015–2017. We will assess their prostate cancer indices, and their functional status and medical co-morbidity.

Appropriateness of management will be assessed based on criteria developed from international consensus guidelines.

New guidelines for South Island urologists and urological oncologists will be developed, with clear guidance on treatment with respect to prostate cancer diagnosis, staging and management based on medical co-morbidity, rather than numerical age.

Student researcher’s component of the study

The student will be required to review all records of men diagnosed with prostate cancer. The national cancer, and local urological databases will be used to identify these patients. PSA levels and dates, prostate cancer histological (biopsy) findings and TNM staging will be recorded, as well as staging investigations by the student.

Then the management of the men will be recorded. Where definitive / curative management is performed, this will be recorded and no further details obtained. However all other management of those men in the three year and six month period (2015 to mid 2018) will be recorded, and analysed against current NZ guidelines.

Both local, and regional management guidelines will subsequently be developed / agreed on by the oncology team.