Prostate Cancer (cont.)

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Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy or “chemo” for prostate cancer involves the use of medications either in pill form or by injection into the veins, which can kill or at least slow the growth of metastatic prostate cancer cells. It does not presently have a role in the treatment of early stage prostate cancer except as part of clinical trials/research studies. The use of chemotherapy in metastatic prostate cancer is presently not a potentially curative treatment, but it can relieve symptoms of prostate cancer, and can prolong life.

Chemotherapy drugs work in many different ways. These drugs may damage the DNA of the cancer cells or disrupt the cells ability to divide (mitosis). These effects can cause cells to die. Not all prostate cancer cells may be sensitive to these drugs, but some may be. A tumor (a mass of cancer cells) will shrink if more cells are killed and removed than continue to grow and divide. As many normal tissues in the body also undergo the same patterns of growth and mitosis, these drugs have numerous side effects due to their effects on normal tissues.

Active chemotherapy drugs for the treatment of prostate cancer today include:

  • Taxotere (Docetaxel)
  • Carbazitaxel (Jevtana)
  • Mitoxantrone (Novantrone)

When these types of drugs are given to patients with prostate cancer they can help reduce pain and shrink tumors. Patients who respond to these drugs often live longer than those who do not respond.

Immunotherapy

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 used to treat prostate cancer that has metastasized. It is appropriate in patients whose cancer is no longer responding to hormonal therapy, but is not yet 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.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/4/2014

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