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Immunotherapy for castration-resistant prostate cancer

Philip W Kantoff, MD
Section Editors
Nicholas Vogelzang, MD
W Robert Lee, MD, MS, MEd
Jerome P Richie, MD, FACS
Deputy Editor
Michael E Ross, MD


For men with advanced prostate cancer manifested by either metastases or a rising prostate-specific antigen (PSA) after definitive therapy, androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) usually can provide disease control for a clinically significant period of time. Ultimately however, disease progresses in almost all cases. Patients who progress while on ADT are termed castration resistant. (See "Castration-resistant prostate cancer: Treatments targeting the androgen pathway".)

The use of the dendritic cell vaccine sipuleucel-T and experimental immunotherapies for the management of castration-resistant prostate cancer will be reviewed here. An overview to the approach to systemic therapy, including the role of different treatment options for castration-resistant disease, is presented separately. (See "Castration-resistant prostate cancer: Treatments targeting the androgen pathway".)


Prostate cancer cells express a number of tumor-associated antigens that can serve as targets for immunotherapy. Examples include prostatic acid phosphatase (PAP), prostate-specific antigen (PSA), and prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA).

The poor in vivo immune response to many tumors, including prostate cancer, has been attributed to evasion of immune system recognition by decreased immunogenicity of surface antigens or blunted effectiveness of the immune response mounted against them. Several approaches have been studied to circumvent defective presentation of antigen to effector cells and/or enhance the responsiveness of the patient's own immune system. (See "Principles of cancer immunotherapy".)

Autologous dendritic cells can be used to deliver prostate cancer antigens for effective in vivo T cell activation. Dendritic cells, which can be harvested by leukapheresis, are efficient antigen-presenting cells that initiate an antigen-specific immune response via uptake, processing, and presentation of antigens to T cells. Sipuleucel-T, a dendritic cell vaccine that induces immunity against PAP, can prolong overall survival and is commercially available. (See 'Sipuleucel-T' below.)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Oct 25, 2016.
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