Prostate Cancer Chemotherapy, Hormone Therapy, Immunotherapy & Clinical Trials

Chemotherapy for Prostate Cancer

Chemotherapy is an option for patients whose prostate cancer has spread outside of the prostate gland or whose hormone therapy is no longer working. While chemotherapy is not expected to destroy all the cancer cells, it may shrink the cancer or slow its growth and reduce pain.

Chemotherapy involves drugs that are either injected or taken by mouth to kill cancer cells. Unfortunately, they also damage some normal cells. The chemotherapy dose must be high enough to kill the cancer cells but not high enough to destroy too many healthy cells.

Hormone Therapy for Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer cells need male hormones, called androgens, to grow. Testosterone is an androgen that is made by the testicles. Blocking the hormones with androgen deprivation therapy (also known as ADT, or hormone therapy) can slow tumor growth or shrink the tumor. This is usually done using drugs called luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) agonists, which prevent the testicles from making testosterone. Although it has significant side effects and almost always loses its effectiveness over time, ADT is still a very effective whole-body therapy. It should not be given routinely for men with early-stage, low-risk prostate cancer.

Roswell Park sponsors a prostate cancer education group for men who are being treated with hormone therapy. Each meeting features an expert discussing the latest treatment advances, diet, exercise, dealing with sexual side effects, integrative medicine options, ways to manage symptoms and other topics. The group meets once a month at Roswell Park. For more information, call 716-845-8665.

Immunotherapy for Prostate Cancer

Roswell Park offers Provenge®, an FDA-approved immunotherapy for prostate cancer patients. This treatment strengthens your own immune system to fight your cancer. You may be eligible if:

  • Your cancer has metastasized (spread) outside the prostate to other parts of your body.
  • Your PSA continues to rise even though you are on hormone therapy.

How does it work? Some of your immune cells are collected in a process called leukapheresis, which is similar to a blood donation. The cells are then sent to a laboratory, where a special antigen, or protein, is added to them to help them track down and kill cancer cells. This creates a personalized vaccine, which is given to you intravenously (through an IV) in three doses, about two weeks apart.

Provenge® was the first therapeutic cancer vaccine approved by the FDA.

Clinical Trials for Prostate Cancer

A clinical trial is a research study designed to evaluate a promising new medical treatment. It may involve a new way of preventing, diagnosing and/or treating cancer. Half or more of all Roswell Park patients are eligible to enroll in a clinical trial. Clinical trials may focus on:

  • New ways of preventing cancer with drugs, diet and/or exercise
  • New ways to better diagnose cancer
  • New drugs to treat cancer
  • New ways to use existing treatments, such as surgery or radiation therapy
  • New ways to improve quality of life for patients with cancer

When the information from a clinical trial shows that the treatment being studied is more effective than standard treatments, the new treatment eventually becomes the new standard of care.

Every treatment that is now FDA-approved began as a treatment being studied in a clinical trial. Patients who enrolled in that clinical trial had access to that treatment before it was FDA-approved and widely available.

Search for prostate cancer clinical trials now underway at Roswell Park.