Immunotherapy is a form of treatment that enhances the immune system to fight cancer. It uses checkpoint inhibitors (a type of drug) to stimulate the immune system to attack cancer cells. Immunotherapy is very effective in cancers with high-level genetic mutations such as lung cancer, bladder cancer, and melanoma. In prostate cancer, previous trials observed that immunotherapy could not work.
A major trial carried out demonstrated for the first time that Pembrolizumab, the immunotherapy drug, is very effective in the treatment of an advanced form of prostate cancer that was not responding to other treatments. The study analyzes the genetic makeup of tumors in prostate cancer to conclude that the approach can select a group of patients for which immunotherapy will work.
The trial revealed that one in ten men whose previous treatments failed gained from Pembrolizumab, the checkpoint inhibitor drug. Researchers administered the checkpoint inhibitor drug to 258 men who had advanced prostate cancer.
Out of the 258, 38% survived for one year while 11% of them are still using the drug one year after the end of the trial without any symptoms of prostate cancer advancing.
Some of the patients experienced remission significantly. Tumors reduced or disappeared in 5% of the patients. Even with the low percentage, the response was high in people with mutational tumors. Researchers believe that they’ll be able to identify and target mutated cancer cells easily since they appear different from normal cells.
Researchers are planning to test Pembrolizumab in men who have DNA-repairing gene mutations.
Immunotherapy has changed the way doctors treat advanced cancers, and now it’s beneficial to the advanced and untreatable prostate cancer patients who may most likely include patients with tumors that have specific DNA repair mutations. Treatment with immunotherapy has offered men a longer lifespan after running out of the existing treatment options.