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Immunotherapy For Prostate Cancer Looks Promising
May 16, 1999 A new technique that links immune cells to Her2-positive prostate cancer cells shows the first documented responses to immunotherapy in prostate cancer. Her2 is a protein that tells cells to divide, making the cancer particularly aggressive and unresponsive to hormone therapy. Some prostate cancer cells produce too much Her2.
Dr. Nicholas James and his team at the University of Birmingham, England, designed a trial to test whether two different therapies can work together to rev up a patient's immune system so as to destroy Her2-positive prostate cancer cells. Patients were given a Her2 antibody intravenously as well as subcutaneous injections of a drug called GM-CSF (granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor). GM-CSF is a growth factor that boosts the body's production of immune system cells. The antibody was designed to attach to the Her2-positive cancer and also to the immune cells, which could then kill the cancer cells.
Dr. James has tested versions of the therapy with 111 patient participants in two separate trials. This study reports only on 25 patients, those who have taken the drug for the longest period of time in the second trial. In 70 percent of patients who showed a response, either the PSA level fell or its rise slowed down. One-third of the patients reported less pain. Patients also reported very little toxicity, according to James. This is an initial step in a strategy which, as a result of this study, will undergo further examination.
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