Immunotherapy, also called biologic therapy, is an exciting new field of study that is designed to boost the body’s immune system to fight cancer.It uses materials either made by the body or in a lab to improve, target or restore immune function.There are different types of immunotherapy including vaccines, monoclonal antibodies and non-specific immunotherapies. In prostate cancer, a treatment vaccine helps the body’s immune system fight cancer by training it to recognize and destroy cancer cells. Become informed:
- Am I a candidate for immunotherapy?
- How will this treatment affect my daily life?
- Will I be able to work, exercise and enjoy my life?
- What immunotherapy clinical trials are available to me?
In the video below, medical oncologist Alicia Morgans, M.D., explains the basics of immunotherapy.
Provenge (Sipuleucel-T) is a vaccine treatment that is used in men with advanced, metastatic hormone resistant prostate cancer with no symptoms. It is the only FDA approved cancer vaccine. Provenge stimulates the immune system to recognize and attack prostate cancer cells. Each dose of Provenge is specially prepared for each patient and requires several visits to the physician. First, white blood cells are removed from the man’s blood. They are then enhanced to fight the prostate cancer and then infused back into the man through a vein. The aim of the treatment is to delay growth of the cancer and extend life.The treatment is used alone or with other treatments such as radiation or hormone therapy. Clinical trials continue to be conducted with Provenge to determine the best way to use the drug.
Other Promising Immunotherapies
Research continues to be done in developing new immunotherapy treatments for prostate cancer and expanding the indications for use of the current prostate cancer vaccine. Two drugs currently being studied include PROSTVAC and Yervoy. To learn more about prostate cancer clinical trials and how to find a trial, visit the clinical trials section of our website.
PROSTVAC is a virus based vaccine that has shown success in men with metastatic castrate resistant prostate cancer. It would work similarly to Provenge but without the need to tailor the drug to each individual’s immune system.
Yervoy (ipilimumab) is a monoclonal antibody that is being studied in hormone resistant prostate cancer. Unfortunately the first large trial did not meet it’s goal, additional trials are ongoing in advanced prostate cancer.
On May 27, 2015 the Cancer Research Institute presented a webinar on Emerging Concepts in Prostate Cancer Immunotherapy with cancer experts James Gulley, M.D., Ph.D. and Ravi Madan, M.D.
The experts discussed the basic concepts of therapies that are designed to stimulate the immune system in order to treat patients with prostate cancer, with a focus on immunotherapies that are FDA approved or in the late stages of clinical development for prostate cancer and potential future roles of cancer immunotherapy, including data that suggests that immune therapies can be combined with other types of therapies. They also address when to use and not to use immunotherapy and provide data about what to expect clinically from this type of treatment.