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Prostate Cancer (cont.)

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Immunotherapy/vaccine therapy

The immune system works by trying to very specifically target infections or to attack and kill cells which are either cancerous or are not our own. The immune system attempts to eliminate these invading problems using antibodies and cells called T-lymphocytes; in cases of cancer the immune system still struggles to control the problem for many reasons. The cancer seems often to either depress or overwhelm the immune system. Immune therapies (immunotherapy) attempt to boost the capability of our immune system.

Provenge (Sipuleucel-T) is a form of immunotherapy, a vaccine therapy, used to treat prostate cancer that has metastasized. It is appropriate in patients whose cancer is no longer responding to hormonal therapy but who are asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic. These patients may be showing a rise in PSA level after previous hormonal treatment has kept the PSA down for a long time.

Provenge therapy involves taking some of your own blood cells and growing them outside the body in the presence of a substance that is specific for prostate cancer. The cells are then given back to you by infusing them into the bloodstream. These cells can attack prostate cancer cells, and can help program other blood cells to do the same. Such treatment causes few side effects, and can prolong survival by several months.

Bone-targeted therapy

Bone health is an essential component of prostate cancer treatment. Both the disease itself, as well as the treatment of the disease with androgen deprivation therapy, can have a significant impact on bone health. Several bone-targeted therapies have been approved.


The bisphosphonates are a group of drugs used to treat several conditions people can get including osteopenia and osteoporosis. They also can lower elevated blood levels of calcium in people with cancer. They work by affecting cells in the bones called osteoclasts, which work to remove bone. These drugs encourage the death of the osteoclasts. In prostate cancer they impact the course of skeletal-related events including reducing pain in the bones, and delaying the progression of bone metastases associated problems including the appearance of fractures (breaks in bones). While the bisphosphonates can affect the growth of prostate cells in the laboratory, they are presently not considered a targeted or direct-acting drug like a chemotherapy or hormonal treatment. They have also not been shown to prevent the appearance of bone metastases in prostate cancer patients. Nonetheless, they are an important part of the treatment of prostate cancer patients with bone metastases.

The most potent of the bisphosphonates is called zoledronic acid (Zometa). It is given intravenously. Its side effects are primarily reactions to the drug infusion. The dose of Zometa may need to be adjusted if the patient's blood tests show signs of deterioration in the function of the patient's kidneys. In addition, its use can predispose patients to serious dental conditions including what is called osteonecrosis of the jaw, which can result in breakdown of the bone of the jaw after dental extractions. Tell your dentist if you are taking this drug.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/9/2016



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