New treatments

taken from Small Gland, Big Problem 4th Edition
by Professor Roger Kirby, Health Press 2011

Drug treatments

As new anti-androgens are developed, it is likely that they will be used at earlier stages of the disease when the cancer cells are more sensitive to the blocking of the action of testosterone.

Research is also being carried out into several drugs that block the pathways of the growth factors that are necessary for the development and progression of prostate cancer. In order for a cancer to grow, it requires a new blood supply. Drugs that block the growth of this
blood supply have anti-cancer potential. These so-called angiogenesis inhibitors are currently being tested for activity against prostate cancer. Many of these new approaches offer the possibility of fewer side effects and greater effectiveness.

Immunotherapy

Work on harnessing the immune system to counter prostate cancer may eventually make it possible to vaccinate men at high risk of the disease or induce an immune response against established disease. An example is Provenge (common name sipuleucel-T). With this treatment, a patient’s immune cells are mixed with a protein designed to produce an immune response in the body to prostate cancer. The immune cells are activated when mixed with this protein, and the activated cells are then infused into the patient’s body. To date, this treatment is only available in the USA, and costs around $165,000 (£100,000) for a month-long course of treatment per patient. Other immunotherapies are in the pipeline.

Gene therapy

Spectacular advances in molecular biology have made the prospect of gene therapy an imminent reality. In the not too distant future, it may be possible to ‘turn off’ the oncogenes that induce cancer and ‘turn on’ the protective tumour suppressor genes. New therapies will also be developed that selectively destroy prostate cancer by activating the in-built cell suicide system known as ‘apoptosis’.