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BioDrugs. 2008;22(2):71-84.

Prostate cancer vaccines: current status and future potential.

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Department of Urology, University of Lübeck Medical School, Lübeck, Germany.


Standard systemic treatment of prostate cancer today is comprised of antihormonal and cytostatic agents. Vaccine therapy of prostate cancer is principally attractive because of the presence of tumor-associated antigens such as prostate-specific antigen (PSA), prostatic acid phosphatase (PAP), prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA), and others. Most prostate cancer vaccine trials have demonstrated some activation of the immune system, limited clinical success, and few adverse effects.One strategy to overcome the problem of limited clinical success of vaccine therapies in prostate cancer could be strict patient selection. The clinical course of patients with prostate cancer (even in those with PSA relapse following surgery or radiotherapy with curative intention, or those with metastatic disease) can vary significantly. In patients with organ-confined prostate cancer, the most promising immunotherapeutic approach would be an adjuvant therapy following surgery or radiotherapy. Patients with PSA relapse following surgery or radiotherapy could also benefit from immunotherapy because tumor burden is usually low. However, most patients in prostate cancer vaccine trials had metastatic hormone-refractory prostate cancer (HRPC). High tumor burden correlates with immune escape phenomena. Nevertheless, 2 years ago, it was demonstrated, for the first time, that a tumor vaccine can prolong survival compared with placebo in patients with HRPC. This was demonstrated with the vaccine sipuleucel-T (APC-8015; Provenge), a mixture of cells obtained from the patient's peripheral blood by leukapheresis followed by density centrifugation and exposition. The Biologics License Application for this vaccine was denied by the US FDA in mid 2007, however, because the trial had failed to reach the primary endpoint (prolongation of time to tumor progression). Nevertheless, clinical trials with sipuleucel-T are ongoing, and the approach still looks promising. Another interesting approach is a vaccine made from whole tumor cells: GVAX. This vaccine is presently being studied in phase III trials against, and in combination with, docetaxel. The results from these trials will become available in the near future. Besides the precise definition of the disease status of patients with prostate cancer, combinations of vaccine therapy with radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and/or hormonal therapy are approaches that look promising and deserve further investigation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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