Currently, the only FDA approved prostate cancer vaccine is Sipuleucel-T (Provenge®). 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. The vaccine works by boosting the immune system so that it attacks prostate cancer cells in the body.
This vaccine is not mass produced and is not widely available. It is made specially for each patient, 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. Patients receive a total of three doses of cells, two weeks apart. The cells help other immune system cells to attack the prostate cancer.
It is important to note that this therapy has not shown to cure prostate cancer. It is currently approved for use in men with advanced prostate cancer that no longer responds to hormone therapy. Studies show that the vaccine helps them live several months longer on average. Studies are now being done to see if this vaccine can help men with less advanced prostate cancer.
Possible Side Effects of Vaccine Treatment
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 two. A few men may have more severe symptoms, including problems breathing and high blood pressure, which usually improve after treatment.
Your physician can discuss the risks and benefits of vaccine therapy for prostate cancer and determine whether or not you are a candidate for this treatment.