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What Are the Different Types of Immunotherapy for Prostate Cancer?

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  • Written By: Jennifer Long
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 08 August 2014
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There are three types of immunotherapy for prostate cancer. Active immunotherapy uses therapy designed to trigger the body’s immune system responses. Passive immunotherapy implements lab-created methods, such as artificial antibodies, to treat the cancer, and specific immunotherapy targets a specific cell without killing other cells. These three different types of immunotherapy work differently as a treatment for prostate cancer.

The most common type of immunotherapy for prostate cancer is passive immunotherapy, which uses monoclonal antibodies. These monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) are created in a laboratory. Conjugated MAbs are antibodies that also contain a type of toxin, such as a chemotherapy medication or small amount of radiation. They seek and destroy prostate cancer cells without affecting normal healthy cells. Naked MAbs do not contain toxins and work by either marking cancer cells for destruction by the immune system or by preventing cancer cells from growing.

Active immunotherapy for prostate cancer is a cancer treatment that relies on the immune system to attack cancer cells in the prostate. Similar to how immunizations trigger the immune system to protect against diseases and viruses, cancer vaccines trigger the immune system to fight cancer cells. Although these vaccines are often lab-created, they are specifically designed to trigger the production of lymphocytes. In many cases, specific prostate cancer cells are taken from the patient and combined with the vaccine. The cancer proteins bind to the vaccine cells, allowing the vaccine to help the immune system recognize the cancer cells as foreign and destroy them.

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Specific immunotherapy for prostate cancer is a more targeted therapy. Many instances of specific immunotherapy combine passive or active immunotherapies with traditional treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy. The other methods are used to mark the prostate cancer cells and make them more vulnerable to traditional treatments. This type of immunotherapy is often used when the prostate cancer is in advanced stages. Advanced stages of cancer are often more difficult to treat because they grow more rapidly and can metastasize more easily.

Immunotherapy for prostate cancer is not often chosen as the first avenue of treatment for prostate cancer that is still in its early stages. Advanced or recurring prostate cancer does not often respond to traditional methods of treatment. Aggressive prostate cancer is more resilient than its non-aggressive counterparts. For this reason, immunotherapy is often used when other methods fail or are not ideal. Additionally, immunotherapy may be suggested when the prostate cancer has caused multiple tumors to appear rapidly.

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