What Is Immunotherapy And Is It A Treatment Option For Prostate Cancer?

Michael Carducci, M.D., Professor, Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center

Jan. 01, 2009 -- Question: What is immunotherapy and is it a treatment option for prostate cancer?

Answer: So immunotherapy is the idea that we can activate the immune system, or in many cases reactivate the immune system, against cancer. For some reason, over time cancer cells have been able to sort of escape cell death or killing by the immune system because they sort of grow up within the body. And so we really feel that we have to stimulate the process again, sort of spark the fire. So immunotherapy really has that as its goal.

In prostate cancer, a number of immunotherapies have sort of been evaluated, and we're really looking to the next year or year-and-a-half where two, three drugs may actually be in front of the FDA because they can actually stimulate the immune system in such a way that it benefits patients. But right now, none of these agents are available for routine use.