When prostate cancer is caught early, there are effective treatments that can provide a cure. If the cancer has spread, treatment becomes much tougher. Now a new trial is evaluating immunotherapy in patients with advanced cases of the disease.
Eighty-five-year old Ralph Stuart has been battling prostate cancer for the past nine years. At first, the cancer was slow-growing, but by 2011, his disease took a turn.
“At that time, it started to spread, spread to the bones,” said Austine Stuart, Ralph’s wife.
Ralph’s doctors tried hormone treatment but his cancer kept spreading. That’s when the Stuarts found Dr. Akash Patnaik. Dr. Patnaik was enrolling patients in a cutting-edge clinical trial known as Checkmate 650.
“With the PSA elevating so much and nothing else seemed to work we said this won’t hurt,” said Austine.
Patients in the trial receive an IV infusion of two drugs that boost the immune system: ipilimumab and nivolumab.
Akash Patnaik, MD, PhD, an Oncologist from the University of Chicago said, “We are trying to enhance the ability of the good immune cells, the T-cells are able to enter the tumor and overcome this fortress of immunosuppression.”
Dr. Patnaik says when given separately, the drugs have little effect on patients with advanced prostate cancer, but together, certain patients, like Ralph Stuart do very well.
“He had a very dramatic response even after receiving the first cycle of treatment”, said Dr. Patnaik.
At its highest, Ralph’s PSA level, a measure of prostate cancer, was over 500. Right now, it’s not detectable, the sign of a possible cure.
“There is a solution for a lot of people,” Austine told Ivanhoe.
The two drugs have already gained FDA approval for advanced kidney cancer and metastatic lung cancer. The Checkmate 650 trial is ongoing at five centers across the U.S. including the University of Chicago.
Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Field and Supervising Producer; Hayley Hudson, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer and Editor.