Published on March 12, 2019
Do prostate cancer patients respond well to immunotherapy? Leading prostate cancer expert Dr. Maha Hussain, from the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, explains how the immune therapy approach works to treat prostate cancer, the current state of treatment research and gives a review of available immunotherapy options. Dr. Hussain also discusses what testing can potentially predict prostate cancer patient’s response to immune treatment. Tune in to find out more.
This is a Patient Empowerment Network program produced by Patient Power in partnership with Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. We thank Astellas, Clovis Oncology and Pfizer for their support. These organizations have no editorial control. Patient Power is solely responsible for program content.
Transcript | Immunotherapy for Prostate Cancer
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I have to ask about, I guess, the field of immune-oncology, Dr. Hussain. People have been seeing that people, even with more advanced lung cancer, have been helped by helping their immune system fight back against the cancer. Does this apply to prostate cancer?
I think, as we talked about, we already have an immune therapy approach, which is the vaccine that is approved for patients with prostate cancer on grounds of prolongation of survival. Currently, there are multiple clinical trials that have been looking at the newer class of drugs, the checkpoint inhibitors, and so far, on the surface overall, there is not a positive result, although we're learning from all of these trials and that there might be subsets of patients who may be potential candidates and may have a better chance of responding to these treatments.
The other part, there is also work going on with combining the immune checkpoint inhibitors, immune therapy with PARP inhibitors to try to create a synergistic effect against the cancer. There's a fair amount of research going on, and there are other potential trials coming up looking at essentially what I call personalized immune treatments where the tumor is taken out and then analyzing the cells, and then creating an antibody against that particular cell and putting it back in and so on, and certainly the CAR T-cell, which is something that's highly celebrated in hematologic conditions.
I know that there's a clinical trial going on, I believe, on the East Coast, so there's a fair amount of interest in the immune therapy and its potential in this disease. One of the things that I would encourage patients to consider, particularly when the cancer is in situations where there may not be many options, certainly having a biopsy of the current cancer tumor as opposed to the old biopsy and having it be evaluated for certain features that may actually potentially predict for response to immune treatment.
There is a blanket FDA approval for one of the immune agents in that regard in multiple diseases, so this is where I would encourage every patient to discuss it with their doctor and explore options, either clinical trial or standard of care.
Right, one of the things we can explain to people, and let's see if I get this right, Dr. Hussain, is the biology of your cancer cells matter, not just that it's fueled by testosterone, and so now we're developing these immune therapies where matching up with your biology of your cancer is really important. Did I get it right?
Yes. It's still work-in-progress. It's still more of what I would call preclinical, at least for prostate cancer, preclinical, early clinical research phase, but I would say stay tuned. I think that this is a disease that is clearly complicated and clearly very smart, and very much different than other cancers, including lung and other cancers, or kidney cancer, or breast cancer, and so on. Clearly, a focused approach on this cancer and doing research specifically in it to better understand, why does it not respond to normal hormone treatment and how can we outsmart the cancer with new strategies? There's a lot of work going in that area.