New Gene Drug Therapy Found to Help Prostate Cancer

By Beavers, Norma | Drug Topics, June 7, 1999 | Go to article overview

New Gene Drug Therapy Found to Help Prostate Cancer


Beavers, Norma, Drug Topics


The latest research into prostate cancer is producing several promising new treatments, including gene-based therapy, for patients with advanced prostate cancer. While further study may be necessary the results of clinical trials suggest that men with advanced prostate cancer who use these therapies may ultimately get a better shot at living longer and an improved quality of care, according to speakers at the 94th annual meeting of the American Urological Association in Dallas. Prostate cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer and the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in men aged 65 and older and in those with a family history of the disease.

In one of the most exciting research findings, results of phase I and phase II clinical trials suggest that Leuvectin, a new gene-based drug candidate for prostate cancer that's being developed under this name by Vical Inc. may help to control prostate cancer by reducing levels of the prostatespecific antigen PSA, a key biochemical marker for the disease. Enrolled for the trial were 12 patients scheduled for complete surgical removal of the prostate gland and nine patients who had progressive disease after radiation therapy.

Patients were given two doses of Leuvectin within several weeks of either complete surgical removal of the prostate gland or prostate biopsy. Treatment with Leuvectin was intended to stimulate an immunesystem response against the primary tumor and a systemic immune response against any tumor cells that may have escaped from the prostate capsule. Presurgical serum PSA levels decreased significantly after treatment with Leuvectin for eight of the 12 patients scheduled for surgery. Three patients diagnosed with metastatic disease at the time of surgery were excluded from the study; all nine remaining patients maintained "negligible PSA levels after 11 to 18 months and continuing," researchers said.

In seven of the nine patients with progressive disease treated with radiation therapy, serum PSA levels "decreased significantly after treatment with Leuvectin," researchers said. Arie Belldegrun, M.D., chief of urologic oncology and director of urologic research at UCLA's Johnson Cancer Center, said that "in certain advanced prostate cancer patients undergoing primary treatment with either surgery or radiation, adjuvant treatment with Leuvectin may postpone the need for more aggressive and more difficult therapies. …

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New Gene Drug Therapy Found to Help Prostate Cancer
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