Prostate cancer cells need male hormones, called androgens, such as testosterone, to grow. 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 accomplished with drugs called luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) agonists, which prevent the testicles from making more testosterone. Although it has significant side effects and almost always loses its effectiveness over time, ADT is one of the most effective whole body therapies in existence — for any cancer.
Chemotherapy, or chemo, is an option for patients whose prostate cancer has spread outside of the prostate gland and when hormone therapy is no longer working. It is not expected to destroy all of the cancer cells, but it may shrink the cancer or slow its growth and reduce pain.
Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer drugs that are injected into a vein, injected into a muscle, or taken by mouth. These drugs kill cancer cells, but they also damage some normal cells. The doctor must maintain a delicate balance of chemo doses, making them high enough to kill the cancer cells but not high enough to destroy too many healthy cells.
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.