Prostate Cancer

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Treating Prostate Cancer TOPICS

Vaccine treatment for prostate cancer

Sipuleucel-T (Provenge®) is a cancer vaccine. Unlike traditional vaccines, which boost the body's immune system to prevent infectious diseases, this vaccine boosts the immune system to get it to attack prostate cancer cells in the body.

The vaccine is used to treat advanced prostate cancer that is no longer responding to initial hormone therapy but that is causing few or no symptoms.

This vaccine is made specially for each man – it is not mass produced. To make it, white blood cells (cells of the immune system) are removed from the patient's blood over a few hours while he is hooked up to a special machine. The cells are then sent to a lab, where they are exposed to a protein from prostate cancer cells called prostatic acid phosphatase (PAP). The cells are then sent back to the doctor's office or hospital, where they are given back to the patient by infusion into a vein (IV). This process is repeated 2 more times, 2 weeks apart, so that the patient gets 3 doses of cells. In the body, the cells help other immune system cells to attack the prostate cancer.

When used in men with advanced prostate cancer that no longer responds to hormone therapy, the vaccine didn’t seem to stop the cancers from growing, but it did help the men live several months longer on average. As with hormone therapy and chemotherapy, this type of treatment has not been shown to cure these cancers.

Studies are now being done to see if this vaccine can help men with less advanced prostate cancer.

Possible side effects of vaccine treatment

Side effects from the vaccine tend to be milder than those from hormone therapy or chemotherapy. Common side effects can 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 day or 2. A few men may have more severe symptoms, including problems breathing and high blood pressure, which usually improve after treatment.


Last Medical Review: 08/26/2013
Last Revised: 09/12/2014