Immunotherapy harnesses the power of the immune system to selectively target cancer cells.
Sipuleucel-T (Provenge®) was the first FDA-approved immunotherapy treatment for men with advanced metastatic prostate cancer.
The patients’ individualized treatment is made by harvesting a person’s immune system cells, engineering them to fight prostate cancer cells, and putting them back into the body. It has been shown to extend survival for men with metastatic prostate cancer.
Types of Immunotherapy
There are many different types of immunotherapy are used to treat cancer. They include:
- 1) Monoclonal antibodies, which are drugs that are designed to bind to specific targets in the body. They can cause an immune response that destroys cancer cells. Other types of monoclonal antibodies can “mark” cancer cells so it is easier for the immune system to find and destroy them. These types of monoclonal antibodies may also be referred to as targeted therapy.
- 2) Adoptive cell transfer, which is a treatment that attempts to boost the natural ability of your T cells to fight cancer. T cells are a type of white blood cell and part of the immune system. Researchers take T cells from the tumor. They then isolate the T cells that are most active against your cancer or modify the genes in them to make them better able to find and destroy your cancer cells. Researchers then grow large batches of these T cells in the lab. You may have treatments to reduce your immune cells. After these treatments, the T cells that were grown in the lab will be given back to you via a needle in your vein. The process of growing your T cells in the lab can take 2 to 8 weeks, depending on how fast they grow.
- 3) Cytokines, which are proteins that are made by your body’s cells. They play important roles in the body’s normal immune responses and also in the immune system’s ability to respond to cancer. The two main types of cytokines used to treat cancer are called interferons and interleukins.
How Immunotherapy Works against Cancer
One reason that cancer cells thrive is because they are able to hide from your immune system. Certain immunotherapies can mark cancer cells so it is easier for the immune system to find and destroy them. Other immunotherapies boost your immune system to work better against cancer.
Immunotherapy Can Cause Side Effects
Immunotherapy can cause side effects, which affect people in different ways. The side effects you may have and how they make you feel will depend on how healthy you are before treatment, your type of cancer, how advanced it is, the type of therapy you are getting, and the dose. Doctors and nurses cannot know for certain how you will feel during treatment.
The most common side effects are skin reactions at the needle site.
Our board certified medical oncologist are using promising new treatments for patients with prostate cancer with the goal of improving patients’ quality of life and increasing survival.