Your immune system identifies foreign organisms that invade your body and then eliminates them. Cancer is the out-of-control growth of your own native cells, so your immune system does not recognize your cancer as a foreign organism and does not attack it.
There has been great effort and cost expended over the years to create ways for the immune system to respond to cancer. The goal is to develop immunotherapy that “tricks” your immune system into recognizing your cancer cells as “invaders” and then attacking and destroying them. Immunotherapy is at the leading edge of cancer treatment.
We men are fortunate because prostate cancer has gleaned a significant portion of immunotherapy development dollars. In May 2010, the FDA approved Sipuleucel-T (Provenge), the first immunotherapy approved for the treatment of any type of cancer.
What we have learned is that immunotherapy takes time to work. This is very different than in other therapies here we expect to see immediate responses in both our PSA and in evidence of slowed disease progression in our scans.
Immunotherapy takes time to “recruit” the immune system to go into high gear and attack the cancer. This means that the earlier in the prostate cancer disease stage the more time it will have to kick into gear. Immune therapy should be started as soon as possible when there is evidence that you have become castrate resistant.
Immunotherapy uses your own natural immune system to fight the cancer.
Following immunotherapy, do not expect to see a decline in your PSA and a halt in disease progression on scans. These markers will not tell you if the treatment will be effective, all we have is the knowledge from the clinical trial data that it does extend life. Six months or a year into your treatments you will still not know if you would have had even worse numbers without the treatment. Remember what we said at the beginning of th