Cancer Home > What Is Sipuleucel-T Used For?
Sipuleucel-T is prescribed for treating prostate cancer that has spread to other areas of the body and is not responding adequately to hormone therapy. This medicine works by using a person's own immune cells and exposing them to a specific molecule that activates them to attack prostate cancer cells. Sipuleucel-T is used in adults only and is sometimes prescribed for certain unapproved uses.
An Overview of Uses for Sipuleucel-TSipuleucel-T (PROVENGE®) is a prescription medication approved for the treatment of prostate cancer. Specifically, sipuleucel-T is used to treat prostate cancer that has not responded adequately to hormone therapy and has spread beyond the prostate, to other areas of the body (metastatic prostate cancer). It is approved for use in men who are not experiencing any prostate cancer symptoms or are experiencing only minimal symptoms.
Sipuleucel-T is the first medication in a class known as autologous (related to yourself) cellular immunotherapy. This means it uses your own immune cells to induce an immune response and treat prostate cancer. Because sipuleucel-T uses a person's own cells, it is considered a "biological" medication, much like vaccines. Biological medications are regulated somewhat differently than most other prescription drugs.
Sipuleucel-T is sometimes called a prostate cancer vaccine because it activates the immune system. Unlike vaccines used to prevent diseases, however, sipuleucel-T helps treat prostate cancer that already exists in the body. It is not used to prevent prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer occurs when cancer cells form in prostate cancer tissue. Because prostate cancer is normally a slow-growing cancer, it can take years for the cancer to progress. By the time symptoms appear, prostate cancer may become metastatic, or spread beyond the prostate to other areas of the body, such as the lymph nodes or the bones. When symptoms do occur, they may include pain, difficulty urinating, and erectile dysfunction (see Prostate Cancer Symptoms).
Metastatic prostate cancer is usually treated with hormonal therapy, either with medications or surgery to remove the testicles (see Prostate Cancer Hormone Therapy). Hormonal therapy works by cutting off the supply of male hormones (androgens), such as testosterone, which stimulate the cancer's growth. This lack of androgens can help to slow down the growth of the cancer cells and relieve cancer symptoms.
Unfortunately, hormonal therapy only works for a limited time. Eventually, cancer cells that do not need testosterone begin to flourish, and cancer growth resumes. At this point, the cancer is considered hormone refractory prostate cancer.
Hormone refractory prostate cancer typically occurs two to three years after hormone therapy was started but may occur sooner. If you have hormone refractory prostate cancer and minimal to no prostate cancer symptoms, your healthcare provider may recommend treatment with sipuleucel-T.