The Provenge Edge: How Immunotherapy is Redefining the Fight Against Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer treatment typically involves surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. While these treatments can be effective, they can also be toxic to the body. Today, it’s essential for cancer patients to explore other options such as nutritional counseling, meditation, and immunotherapy.

Immunotherapy refers to the treatment of disease by inducing or suppressing the immune response from the body. It works by relying on the body’s adaptive immune response to recognize foreign antigens (cancerous cells) and stimulating a response from the immune system. This allows the body’s defenses to attack the malignant cells with the goal of killing the diseased cells. Immunotherapy does not destroy healthy cells or tissues, nor does it suppress hormone production or immune system cell activity.

Currently, Provenge® (sipuleucel-T) is the only prostate cancer immunotherapy approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is the first in a new class of therapy to use this approach. Although not suitable for every patient, immunotherapy can be a highly effective treatment. Healthcare providers may suggest immunotherapy for asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic cancer, cancer that has spread beyond the pancreas, or disease that has failed to respond to hormone therapies.

Treating Prostate Cancer with the Immune System

Immunotherapy for prostate cancer involves stimulating the patient’s immune system to reject existing cancer cells. In simpler terms, it encourages the body’s natural resources to target the invading disease cells. A healthy immune system can react to foreign factors that enter the body, like viruses and allergens.

Cancer cells can trick the immune system since the tumor cells are produced within the person’s body, which allows them to grow, reproduce, and spread unnoticed. Provenge® works with the body’s immune system to identify and fight cancer cells.

Immunotherapy Treatment Procedures and Benefits

Immunotherapy treatment for prostate cancer involves a course that takes five weeks and includes three procedures followed by an infusion of Provenge. Each dose is unique and specifically formulated to the patient’s needs. Prior to treatment, a doctor will assess blood cell levels using a complete blood count test and set up a leukapheresis procedure, which collects cells. The samples are sent to a lab for evaluation, and the findings are used to prepare a personalized dose shipped to a designated infusion facility.

The primary goal and benefit of Provenge treatment is to help men with prostate cancer live longer. In a clinical study involving 512 men, Provenge reduced the risk of death by 22.5%. The median survival for patients who took Provenge was 4.1 months longer than the placebo group. Data from Dendreon Corporation also showed that at three years, 37.8% more patients treated with Provenge were alive when compared to the control group.

Another benefit of Provenge treatment is that men can continue using other prostate cancer therapies after treatment. As Provenge stimulates the immune system, men who undergo this immunotherapy are better equipped to handle immunosuppressive therapies like chemotherapy.

New Advances in Treating Prostate Cancer

Several innovative treatment options are available for men battling prostate cancer. To develop the most suitable course of action, patients are encouraged to discuss the benefits and risks of each therapy with their doctors, family, insurance company, and others who have been through similar experiences.

Zytiga is a hormone therapy drug that stops hormone production in three sites: the testes, adrenal glands, and prostate tumor. Both Provenge and Zytiga have demonstrated the ability to extend overall survival and can be used in combination to attack the disease at multiple levels.

Xtandi is the first drug of a new class called androgen inhibitors. As a hormone therapy, it obstructs the activity of testosterone when attempting to attach to prostate cancer cells. Prostate cancer cells need testosterone to grow and reproduce, so Xtandi helps prevent the hormone from aiding these functions.

These drugs are suitable for advanced stages of prostate cancer that have spread despite hormone therapy. Xofigo, however, is only for cancers that have spread to bones and not to other organs. It cannot be used with chemotherapy.

When diagnosed with prostate or any cancer, it is crucial not to panic but to explore the various available options and fight the disease aggressively.