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Prostate cancer “immunotherapy” vaccine hits clinical trials

Scientists at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) are currently trialling an experimental immunotherapy treatment for men with advanced prostate cancer. Already some of the participants in the trial, who commenced with advanced metastatic disease, are experiencing substantial reductions in their tumour load.

Immunotherapy is a vaccine using patients’ immune cells which boosts the body’s immune system against cancer. QIMR, in conjunction with Dr Frank Gardiner from The University of Queensland (UQ), has two prostate cancer trials currently underway. Scientists believe the results of these trials will pave the way for a new treatment against prostate cancer and many other cancers, utilising a patient’s own immune system to defeat cancer.

A patient on one of the QIMR trials, Reg Buckley, from Rockhampton, commenced his immunotherapy treatment 6 months ago, with advanced prostate cancer that had spread beyond his prostate gland to pelvic lymph nodes and within the pelvis. His prostate specific antigen (PSA) reading was 150 (normal is between 2.5 – 6.5 dependent on age). Today, after eight injections and with four to go, his PSA is down to 8 and most of the tumours have disappeared. “I had very advanced cancer and wasn’t responding to conventional therapy. I feel privileged to be part of the QIMR trial and to actually see my cancer shrinking with each treatment of immunotherapy. I am optimistic that my final vaccinations will completely eliminate my remaining tumours,” said Reg Buckley.

Cancer of the prostate is now the most commonly diagnosed cancer of men in our community. One in 15 males will develop prostate cancer, usually when they are over age 50 years. Of all the different types of cancer affecting men, prostate cancer accounts for 20%. “We hope QIMR’s research will prove that an alternative and successful treatment for prostate cancer is now in the pipeline. It is truly exciting to be involved in clinical research of this magnitude that, even in the early testing phases, can save lives,” said Dr Schmidt.

QIMR has already had success with its immunotherapy melanoma trials and some formerly terminal cancer patients have been in remission for more than four years. However, while QIMR scientists may hold the potential to effectively treat cancer, they lack essential funding and donations.