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Interdisciplinary Critique of Sipuleucel-T as Immunotherapy in Castration-Resistant Prostate Cancer

Authors
Journal
JNCI Journal of the National Cancer Institute
0027-8874
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Publication Date
Volume
104
Issue
4
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1093/jnci/djr514
Keywords
  • Commentary
Disciplines
  • Design
  • Medicine

Abstract

Sipuleucel-T was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration on April 29, 2010, as an immunotherapy for late-stage prostate cancer. To manufacture sipuleucel-T, mononuclear cells harvested from the patient are incubated with a recombinant prostatic acid phosphatase (PAP) antigen and reinfused. The manufacturer proposes that antigen-presenting cells exogenously activated by PAP induce endogenous T-cells to attack PAP-bearing prostate cancer cells. However, the lack of demonstrable tumor responses has prompted calls for scrutiny of the design of the trials in which sipuleucel-T demonstrated a 4-month survival benefit. Previously unpublished data from the sipuleucel-T trials show worse overall survival in older vs younger patients in the placebo groups, which have not been shown previously to be prognostic for survival in castration-resistant prostate cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. Because two-thirds of the cells harvested from placebo patients, but not from the sipuleucel-T arm, were frozen and not reinfused, a detrimental effect of this large repeated cell loss provides a potential alternative explanation for the survival “benefit.” Patient safety depends on adequately addressing this alternative explanation for the trial results.

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