Prostate cancer occurs when the cells of the prostate start to grow out of control, contrary to healthy cells, which normally divide and die. The prostate is a gland present in men’s reproductive system, located below the bladder, near the rectum and surrounding the urethra. When the disease develops, it 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.
It has a high incidence, being the second most common type of cancer diagnosed in American men. There are, however, treatment options including watchful waiting, surgery, radiation therapy, 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.
Vaccine Treatment for Patients with Prostate Cancer
Vaccine treatment is one of the most modern treatment options for patients with prostate cancer. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first vaccine on April 29, 20104444444. The compound called sipuleucel-T, which is produced by the company Dendreon Corporation under the brand name Provenge, is an autologous cellular immunotherapy indicated for the treatment of asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic metastatic castrate-resistant (hormone refractory) prostate cancer. While traditional vaccines are designed to boost the body’s immune system and help prevent infections, this vaccine boots the immune system for it to attack cancerous cells.
“This vaccine has to be made special from each patient’s own blood cells. To make it, white blood cells are removed from the patient’s blood and sent to a lab, where they are exposed to a certain protein from prostate cancer cells. These cells are then sent back to the doctor’s office and given back to the patient through a vein (IV). This process is done twice more, 2 weeks apart, so that the patient gets 3 doses of cells. In the body, the cells cause other immune system cells to attack the prostate cancer,” explain the American Cancer Society.
Benefits and Risks of Prostate Cancer Vaccine Treatment
Vaccine treatment is particularly helpful in patients whose cancer is no longer responding to initial hormone therapy but that is causing few or no symptoms. The vaccine has been shown to increase patients’ overall survival by about four months. Similarly to hormone therapy or chemotherapy, this type treatment aims to ease the symptoms of the disease and improve patients’ quality of life, but it does not cure the disease. Studies are currently being done to investigate the use of this vaccine in patients with less advanced prostate cancer.
However, there are also side effects from the treatment, which tend to be milder than those from hormone therapy or chemotherapy. The most common side effects reported by patients who received the vaccine include fever, chills, fatigue, back and joint pain, nausea, and headache. “These most often start during the cell infusions and last no more than a couple of days. A few men may have more severe symptoms, including problems breathing and high blood pressure, which usually get better after treatment.”
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.