Prostate Cancer Vaccine Trials Underway
Each year, between 40,000 and 50,000 men in the United States die of prostate cancer. But a vaccine being tested by The Cancer Institute of New Jersey (CINJ) may help reduce those statistics.
Robert DiPaola, MD, assistant professor of medicine at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, says the vaccine is delivered via a virus and contains the gene for PSA, or prostate-specific antigen. PSA is produced only by prostate tumor cells and is not normally found in the body. By injecting the vaccine, the body's immune system should be triggered to attack the prostate tumor cells, like it attacks foreign bacteria that invade the body and cause infection.
Currently the only therapies available for recurring prostate cancer are hormone therapy and chemotherapy, and eventually prostate tumors become resistant to both treatments. The vaccine, however, is a novel approach. "It may not cure the disease, but it could keep the cancer under control, or even slow it down," explains DiPaola, who is also the director of prostate cancer studies at CINJ. "That means a man diagnosed at, say, 55 could live out the rest of his natural life, even with the disease."
The vaccine is also being tested at Albert Einstein Hospital in New York, Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia and the University of Wisconsin at Madison. DiPaola says a total of 60 men can be in the CINJ trial, and so far approximately 15 have been recruited. In order to qualify, a person must have been diagnosed with prostate cancer that has not metastasized, already have had a prostatectomy or radiation to the prostate, and have the first evidence of recurrence, which is an elevated PSA level. The trial includes four injections given six months apart, and is similar in toxicity to a smallpox vaccine. The side effects are expected to be minimal, such as tenderness at the injection site.
'This could be a giant step forward in controlling this disease," DiPaola says. "I think this vaccine may be the key to doing that." For more information call 732- 235-7577.