The prostate is a gland that is a part of men’s reproductive system, located below the bladder, near the rectum and surrounding the urethra. Prostate cancer develops when the cells of the prostate start to grow out of control, contrary to healthy cells, which normally divide and die. The disease affects both the urinary and reproductive systems, causing symptoms like urinary problems including a slow or weak urinary stream or the need to urinate more often, especially at night, blood in the urine, erectile dysfunction, pain in the hips, back, chest, or other areas from cancer that has spread to bones, and weakness or numbness in the limbs.
Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer among American men, but there are treatment options to address the disease. These include expectant management (watchful waiting) or active surveillance, surgery, radiation therapy, cryosurgery (cryotherapy), hormone therapy, vaccine treatment, bone-directed treatment, and chemotherapy. The choice of treatment depends on the patient’s age and expected lifespan, any other severe health conditions, the stage and grade of the cancer, patient’s and physician’s feelings and opinions about the need to treat the cancer right away and potential side effects, as well as the likelihood that each type of treatment will cure the cancer.
Biologic Therapy for Patients with Prostate Cancer
Biologic therapy is a treatment option for patients with prostate cancer that involves the use of living organisms, substances derived from living organisms, or laboratory-produced versions of living organisms. “For patients with cancer, biological therapies may be used to treat the cancer itself or the side effects of other cancer treatments. Although many forms of biological therapy have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), others remain experimental and are available to cancer patients principally through participation in clinical trials (research studies involving people),” explain the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
This type of treatment offers different options. Immunotherapy therapy or biological response modifier therapy refers to the use of vaccines or bacterias to stimulate the patient’s immune system and attack cancer cells. Monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) are antibodies produced in labs to bind specific antigens expressed in cancerous cells, while cytokines are signaling proteins produced by the white blood cells that are able to mediate and regulate the body’s immune responses, inflammation, and hematopoiesis. The options of biologic therapy also include vaccines, which include cancer-related antigens designed to improve the response of the immune system to the cancerous cells.
The Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) therapy was the first FDA-approved biological therapy and consists of an injection of a weakened form of a live tuberculosis bacterium into the bladder. Oncolytic virus therapy is an experimental biologic therapy meant to destroy cancer cells, while gene therapy, which is also an experimental type of treatment, is based on introducing genetic material (DNA or RNA) into living cells. In addition, adoptive T-cell transfer therapy, which is also experimental, aims to enhance the natural cancer-fighting ability of patients T cells.
Benefits and Risks of Prostate Cancer Biologic Therapy
Given the fact that biologic therapy is an innovative option and still under investigation, there is still a certain lack of information about its long-term benefits. However, it is known to be less invasive than other treatment options like surgery or radiation therapy. Despite that fact, there are also risks and potential side effects. According to the National Institutes of Health, there are different side effects associated with the different types of biologic therapy.
Pain, swelling, soreness, redness, itchiness, and rash at the site of infusion or injection are common among the different treatment options. In addition, MAbs and cytokines may cause flu-like symptoms, severe allergic reaction, lowered blood counts, changes in blood chemistry, and organ damage usually to the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver or brain, while the side effects associated with vaccines treatment include flu-like symptoms and severe allergic reaction. BCG can result in flu-like symptoms, severe allergic reaction, and urinary side effects like pain or burning sensation during urination, increased urgency or frequency of urination, and blood in the urine.
The side effects related to oncolytic viruses include flu-like symptoms, and tumor lysis syndrome, which consist on severe and life-threatening alteration in blood chemistry due to the release of materials formerly contained within cancer cells into the bloodstream. Finally, gene therapy may cause flu-like symptoms, secondary cancer, mistaken introduction of a gene into healthy cells, including reproductive cells, overexpression of the introduced gene may harm healthy tissues, and virus vector transmission to other individuals or into the environment.
Note: Prostate Cancer News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.