Prostate Cancer Vaccine (Sort of)

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Liz Szabo of USA Today reports, The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved the first vaccine to treat prostate cancer or any cancer the culmination of decades of research into harnessing the immune system to fight tumors.

I wouldn t necessarily call this a vaccine, says Dr. Ross. Instead of injecting the patient with a foreign substance to induce an immune response, they treat the patient s own immune cells with an antigen from the patient s prostate cancer and then inject them back in to generate an immune response. In other words, it s like a controlled autoimmune disease being used to target cancer cells an immunotherapy treatment. Based on the tests done so far, this is not what you would call a massive improvement in treatment, since it prolonged the lives of end-stage patients by only four months, but it is a highly promising concept for more effective future individualized cancer treatments exploiting the patients own immune systems.

Dr. Whelan adds, It would be really exciting if it was shown to work in earlier stage prostate cancer as well. In that case, it could save lives in addition to merely delaying end-stage effects.