Over the last decade, immunotherapy has emerged as one of the most promising and innovative fields in oncology. The goal of immunotherapy is to help a patient’s own immune system fight cancer. A major breakthrough came in 2010, when the FDA approved the first cancer-treatment vaccine, sipuleucel-T (brand name Provenge®), for the treatment of prostate cancer.
“Since then, there have been clinical trials of other immunotherapies for prostate cancer, but we really haven't had any other major improvements,” says Gurkamal Chatta, MD, Clinical Chief of Genitourinary (GU) Medicine at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.
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In the hope of changing that, Dr. Chatta and his colleagues are conducting a phase I clinical trial of an immunotherapy for men with metastatic prostate cancer that has progressed in spite of standard treatment. “We are targeting an area of need where there are really no other effective therapies.”
The trial centers on MOR209/ES414, a special type of antibody that researchers hope will guide the patient’s T cells — specific white blood cells that help the immune system fight disease — to seek out a molecule called PSMA, which is found in most prostate cancers. The science behind the clinical trial is based on results of clinical trials for a similar immunotherapy called blinatumomab (Blincyto®), which is now FDA-approved for the treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Roswell Park is one of only three sites across the country (with a fourth location in Australia) where the MOR209/ES414 clinical trial is offered, and the only location on the East Coast. Participants receive MOR209/ES414 in a continuous infusion through a pump that’s worn as a “fanny pack” and visit the GU Center at Roswell Park twice a week for six months. “It’s a very open trial in the sense that there is no rigid entry criteria. The trial is open to any men who have failed the standard treatments for prostate cancer,” says Chatta.
Dr. Chatta hopes that in the long run, MOR209/ES414 will prove to be effective for treating prostate cancer, and — at the very least, in the short term — provide a less-toxic treatment option for some patients. “If you could have a treatment that specifically targets the cancer, without causing collateral damage, you could provide meaningful quality of life in a subset of patients who are sicker and less able to tolerate toxic chemotherapies,” he says.
For more information about this and other clinical trials, send an email to AskRoswell@Roswellpark.org.