Researchers at UW Health in Madison hope a vaccine to treat prostate cancer could set the stage for the future of cancer treatments.
Immunotherapy, a type of cancer treatment that helps one’s immune system fight cancer, is still relatively new. According to Dr Douglas McNeel, director of solid tumor immunology research at the UW Carbone Cancer Center, as recently as 10 years ago there were only a handful of immunotherapies available. Today, upwards of 30% of patients with cancer receive some type of immunotherapy as part of their treatment plan, he said.
“Our team is researching vaccines that could elicit prostate cancer-destructive immune responses,” McNeel said. “This kind of immuno-based therapy, by activating immune cells that are specific for the tumor, may be foundational to the future of cancer treatments.”
Prostate cancer affects 1 in 8 men in the United States according to Cancer.gov. The American Cancer Society predicts more than 5,500 people will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in Wisconsin in 2022.
Research is still in clinical trials and undergoing testing and review monitored by the FDA. The clinical trial process will help to understand how prostate cancer interacts with the immune system and evaluate antigen-specific DNA vaccines.
“If we can develop tumor-specific vaccinations for prostate cancer, the disease could become much more like high blood pressure, like a chronic condition,” he said. “And hopefully we can use this method for earlier interventions, leading to better outcomes across the board.”