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Prostate Cancer: An Update on Checkpoint Inhibitor Research

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Published on March 26, 2018

What innovations have been made in immunotherapies for prostate cancer? How do checkpoint inhibitors work? Prostate cancer expert Dr. Tomasz Beer from OHSU Knight Cancer Institute joins us from the frontlines of treatment research to discuss the latest news on checkpoint inhibitors for prostate cancer and recent results from clinical trials. Watch now for a clinical research update on checkpoint inhibitors. 

This is a Patient Empowerment Network program produced by Patient Power in partnership with Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. We thank Astellas and Sanofi for their support.

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Transcript | Prostate Cancer: An Update on Checkpoint Inhibitor Research

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Jeff Folloder:              

Let’s talk a little bit about checkpoint inhibitors, doctor. CTLA-4 and PD1 inhibitors—what are they?

Dr. Beer:                    

Oh, my goodness…

Jeff Folloder:              

We have to toss some difficult ones out there, right?

Dr. Beer:                    

So what we’re talking about here are immune checkpoints. The basic idea is that our immune system fails to clean up or eradicate our own cancer, because it doesn’t adequately recognize it as foreign or an invader. Cancer evolves slowly from within, and it’s not like a bacterium that’s completely foreign, and shows up abruptly, and is easy to detect.

These checkpoints are mechanisms that the immune system uses to develop this sort of tolerance to ourselves and the cancer, and they’re not all bad. If you had no checkpoints, your immune system would cause all kinds of diseases, and many folks do suffer from autoimmune diseases, so there’s a balance that needs to be struck between immune system activity and immune system tolerance.

The checkpoint inhibitors are antibody drugs that are given intravenously, and they activate the immune system; they interrupt that tolerance. And the hope is that the immune system can then get another crack at recognizing a cancer and attacking it. They’ve been all the rage in several cancers, and have made a real difference in patients with melanoma increasingly, and in other malignancies.

In prostate cancer, we had high hopes for ipilimumab, which is a CTLA-4 checkpoint inhibitor. It made it all the way to two large global so-called Phase III trials, and unfortunately, there was not enough of a benefit to have those drugs move forward. The PD1 inhibitors are a different class, and we’re seeing some early results that are encouraging enough to continue forward. I don’t think we quite have enough data today to recommend those agents routinely—perhaps with a small exception of patients who have a very particular type of mutation site in their cancer.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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