What Is the Success Rate of Immunotherapy for Prostate Cancer?

Immunotherapy has shown promising results in treating prostate cancer, with success rates varying based on factors like cancer stage and individual response.

Immunotherapy is doing well in treating prostate cancer. The chance of success changes based on the cancer’s stage and how each person’s body reacts.1 In a big test, only one out of 20 men with late-stage prostate cancer got better with immunotherapy. This drug, pembrolizumab, helped a few of these men live two years or more, although doctors didn’t expect them to last long.2 The test, managed by experts from The Institute of Cancer Research in London and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, looked at 258 men with hard-to-treat prostate cancer. Only 5% saw their tumors go away or get smaller, but 19% had some hope because their tumors changed a bit.2 The team also saw that immunotherapy worked best for men with specific DNA changes.2 Still, finding a good way to figure out who will do well with immunotherapy is key.

Key Takeaways

  • Immunotherapy is giving hope in fighting advanced prostate cancer, with some patients seeing amazing and lasting changes.
  • From a large study, 5% of men with the worst stage of prostate cancer saw improvements after using pembrolizumab.
  • In this research, those with DNA repair changes did especially well with immunotherapy.
  • It’s very important to find better ways to guess who will benefit the most from immunotherapy in prostate cancer cases.
  • For many prostate cancer patients, especially those in advanced stages, immunotherapy might be easier to handle than chemotherapy.

Introduction to Prostate Cancer

The prostate is like a small, walnut-shaped gland for men’s bodies. It’s part of the male reproductive system. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer for men around the globe. About 1.3 million men get it each year. And sadly, more than 360,000 lose their lives to it. This makes up around 4% of all cancer deaths worldwide.1

In the U.S., 2023 is expected to see about 290,000 new cases. More than 35,000 deaths are also expected. Prostate cancer is the eighth leading cause of cancer deaths. It affects 1 out of every 7 men during their lifetimes.

Prostate Cancer Prevalence and Impact

Prostate cancer is a big issue for global health. It affects roughly 1.3 million people worldwide each year. Sadly, it leads to over 360,000 deaths annually. This makes up about 4% of all cancer deaths.1

In the U.S., 2023 is expected to bring around 290,000 new cases. Over 35,000 of those may die from it. As the eighth cause of cancer deaths, 1 out of every 7 men may face it in their lifetime.

Early vs. Metastatic Prostate Cancer Survival Rates

The survival rate for early-stage prostate cancer is nearly 100% over 5 years.1 But, if it spreads, or metastasizes, the rate drops to under 30%. This shows why finding it early and effective treatment matter so much. Especially for advanced or metastatic cases.

Conventional Prostate Cancer Treatment Options

For early-stage prostate cancer, you can choose surgery or radiation.1 Hormonal therapy lowers male hormones that can make tumors grow.1 Chemo is an extra choice for later or widespread cancer.

Surgery and Radiation Therapy

Doctors may do a prostatectomy for cancer that’s only in the prostate. They can also use radiation, which includes beams from outside or seeds placed inside.

Hormone Therapy

ADT aims to lower testosterone and slow cancer growth. It’s often used with other therapies for early-stage cancer.


For more advanced cancer, chemotherapy drugs like docetaxel might be used. Chemo can help with symptoms and might lengthen life, especially for serious cases.

Conventional ways like surgery and radiation are key for prostate cancer care.3 But, new ways with immunotherapy are also getting more important, especially for cancer that’s spread.3

prostate cancer treatment options

What is the Success Rate of Immunotherapy for Prostate Cancer?

A study led by The Institute of Cancer Research showed a small group of men beat the odds with immunotherapy. Some lived two years longer.1 About 5% of men with advanced prostate cancer saw tumors vanish after treatment. Another 19% saw some signs of improvement.1 Men with certain gene mutations had the best outcomes.1

Prostate cancer grips about 1.3 million people worldwide, claiming over 360,000 lives yearly.1 In the U.S., nearly 290,000 new cases and over 35,000 deaths are expected in 2023.1 It ranks as the eighth deadly cancer and the second most spread male cancer.1 The odds of a man getting prostate cancer are 1 in 7.1

Survival after catching prostate cancer early is almost certain. But, after spreading, survival drops.1 Though only a small percentage find relief in immunotherapy, some patients with specific mutations benefit greatly.1

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FDA-Approved Immunotherapies for Prostate Cancer

Immunotherapy has given more treatment choices for people with prostate cancer. There are three FDA-approved drugs. These use the body’s defense system to fight the illness. This gives hope to those with advanced or coming back prostate cancer.

Cancer Vaccines: Sipuleucel-T (Provenge®)

Sipuleucel-T (Provenge®) is for men with prostate cancer that has spread too much and doesn’t get better with usual therapy.4 The vaccine is given in 3 doses every 2 weeks. It aims to help the immune system attack cancer cells and possibly lengthen life.4

Immunomodulators: Dostarlimab (Jemperli) and Pembrolizumab (Keytruda®)

Another option, pembrolizumab (Keytruda®), is available too.1 It’s a type of immunotherapy for prostate cancer. It helps those whose cancer has certain genetic changes. Around 5-10% of people with cancer that has spread may benefit.4 It’s given through a vein every 3 weeks. This is for those who didn’t get better with other treatments and have few choices left.4

There’s also dostarlimab (Jemperli) for certain genetic types of prostate cancer.1 It helps the body’s immune system fight cancer better. This way, it may slow down the cancer.

Clinical Trials and Research on Immunotherapy for Prostate Cancer

The Cancer Research Institute (CRI) is working hard on prostate cancer. They have given about $25 million since 1953.1 In 1996, they started the Prostate Cancer Initiative with $9 million. The goal is to help prostate cancer patients with research and awareness.1

CRI’s Impact and Funding for Prostate Cancer Research

The CRI has pushed forward prostate cancer immunotherapy. They gave nearly 100 grants in this area.1 With $25 million in total support, they’ve helped spark new studies. These studies hope to make better treatment options for patients.1

Recent Findings by CRI Investigators

CRI-funded scientists are making big findings in immunotherapy for prostate cancer. They found that it works well for patients in advanced stages, not responding to hormone therapy.3 Now, they’re testing if combining immunotherapies with other treatments boosts the body’s fight against cancer.3

The research on immunotherapy for prostate cancer is moving forward. The CRI keeps investing in new studies and treatments.1 Their work is key in making outcomes better and improving life for patients.1

Mechanism of Action of Immunotherapies for Prostate Cancer

Immunotherapies help the immune system fight prostate cancer.3 They make the body’s defense against cancer stronger. This is great for prostate cancers that don’t respond to other treatments.

Stimulating the Immune System to Target Cancer Cells

These treatments boost the body’s immune response against prostate cancer cells.3 They help the immune system’s cells, like T cells, attack and stop the cancer.3 This makes the immune system better at finding and destroying cancer cells.

Checkpoint Inhibitors and the PD-1/PD-L1 Pathway

Some treatments focus on the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway.5 This pathway can slow down the immune system’s attack on cancer. Pembrolizumab and atezolizumab are drugs that help the immune system fight prostate cancer better.5 They target these proteins to make T cells stronger against cancer.

Understanding how these treatments work helps make them better.35 Researchers are always looking for new and improved ways to beat prostate cancer with immunotherapies.

Factors Influencing Immunotherapy Response in Prostate Cancer

Immunotherapy can work well in treating prostate cancer with the right factors. It includes genetic changes and how the tumor looks. A big study by experts from The Institute of Cancer Research and The Royal Marsden found that some men did very well on immunotherapy if they had certain mutations. Two of the main researcher’s patients have been taking the drug for over two years and are doing great.6

Role of DNA Repair Gene Mutations

Patients with certain genetic changes, like in genes BRCA1, BRCA2, and ATM, did much better with immunotherapy.6 These changes can make the tumor have more DNA problems. This makes immune treatments like checkpoint inhibitors work better against prostate cancer.7

Tumor Mutational Burden and Microsatellite Instability

Besides gene changes, researchers also looked at other signs to see if immunotherapy would work well.7 In 2020, a study showed that high tumor fusion (genetic mixing) was linked with the immune system fighting prostate cancer.7 And in 2019, another research said that patients with certain types of unstable tumors might benefit from immune checkpoint drugs.7

These discoveries show that picking out the right patients and using the best treatments are key for immunotherapy to work best in prostate cancer.678

Combination Therapies with Immunotherapy for Prostate Cancer

Scientists are looking into mixing immunotherapy with other care. They aim to help men with prostate cancer have better results.3 A trial is running to test different therapies, including nivolumab, a PD-1 blocker. This trial combines immunotherapy with hormonal, chemo, or targeted therapies. The goal is to help the immune system fight prostate cancer better.3

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There is also a study on a special scan for risky prostate cancer cases. It’s the PSMA PET-CT scan. This scan is done before serious surgery or radiation. It has its own success stories.3 Another test using sipuleucel-T in the late stage of prostate cancer showed mixed results.3 But, treatments given before surgery, like neoadjuvant immunotherapy, made some improvements. This included helping more T-cells get into the tumor to fight it.3

Some experiments mix dendritic cell immunotherapy with chemo. They look at men with prostate cancer that has spread and is hard to treat.3 Knowing how the immune system and prostate cancer work together is key. It helps find better ways to use immunotherapy for each person.3

In one study, over half the patients had a good reaction with a mix of two treatments.9 This was in 43 men with a hard-to-fight kind of prostate cancer.9 They had already tried some medicines that didn’t work. The study watched them for around 16 months.9

The study got some money from the National Cancer Institute and the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Also, Gene and Ethel Daly helped with funds.9 Merck and Novartis shared the drugs for the study.9

The mix of immunotherapy with other treatments is very promising. It shines a light of hope for men with prostate cancer.3 More studies are happening to see how to make this promising mix work even better.3

Immunotherapy vs. Chemotherapy for Prostate Cancer

Immunotherapies like pembrolizumab are doing better than chemotherapy for prostate cancer.10 In a big test, 60% of prostate cancer patients had side effects with pembrolizumab. But, only 15% had really bad side effects.10 This shows that immunotherapies might be easier to handle than chemo for some prostate cancer patients, especially those with a later stage.

Prostate cancer doesn’t respond as well to immunotherapies as some other cancers do. Still, there are three FDA-approved immunotherapy options for prostate cancer. They are the Provenge® cancer vaccine, Dostarlimab (Jemperli), and Pembrolizumab (Keytruda®).10 More kinds of immunotherapies are being tested. These include new antibodies and cell therapies.10

Immunotherapy for prostate cancer can be expensive, costing over $100,000 a year.10 Medicare is spending more on immunotherapies since 2016. This shows doctors are using this option more.10 The side effects of immunotherapy usually go away in 3 days. They might cause skin problems, make you feel like you have the flu, or give you pain.10 Usually, doctors recommend immunotherapy for more advanced cases. It’s not the first choice for treatment.10

Side Effects and Tolerability of Immunotherapy for Prostate Cancer

Immunotherapy was generally well tolerated in a major trial for advanced prostate cancer. About 60% of patients had some side effects, but only 15% had severe ones. This shows immunotherapies may be easier on patients than regular chemotherapies. They might be especially good for those with a worse kind of the disease.11

In comparison to usual treatments’ side effects, like issues with bladder control and erectile dysfunction,11 immunotherapies seem better. They might help a lot for patients with the worst forms of the disease. These individuals might not handle chemo’s hard side effects so well.11

Though we need more studies, signals show immunotherapies could be a good choice for many patients. They might provide a way to manage cancer without the severe side effects of usual treatments. Prostate cancer immunotherapy is getting better all the time. Figuring out how and when to use these treatments is key for better results and life quality for those with prostate cancer.11,12,13

Ongoing Research and Future Directions

Scientists keep digging into how immunotherapy can help with prostate cancer. They’re really trying to figure out who will benefit most. The big trial by The Institute of Cancer Research and The Royal Marsden showed us something. It said just checking PD-L1 levels doesn’t tell us everything. We need to look at other things like certain gene changes and how many mutations the tumor has. These might help us know who will do well with immunotherapy.3

Improving Patient Selection and Response Prediction

It’s super important to pick the right patients for immunotherapy in prostate cancer. Doctors and researchers are working hard to make better tests. These tests would help know which immunotherapy works best for each person. This would mean treatments could be more focused, helping patients more and costing less.3

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Novel Immunotherapy Approaches and Targets

Scientists are looking at new ways to treat prostate cancer with immunotherapy. They’re not just looking at what we have now. They’re trying out new types of treatment like specific antibodies and using the patient’s own immune cells. Mixes of different therapies are also being tried. All this is in hopes of making the immune system better at tackling prostate cancer.10 Trials are checking if these new ideas really work for patients.10

The world of prostate cancer and immunotherapy is always moving forward. Research and new findings bring hope to better the life of patients. By finding better ways to select patients, looking into different treatments, and understanding how the immune system fights this cancer, we aim to boost immunotherapy’s power.310


Immunotherapy is looking good for advanced prostate cancer. Some people are seeing great, lasting results. But, most patients don’t see this success. Only a small 5% saw their tumors go away in a big test.3 Yet, those with certain gene changes did really well.3 Doctors are still looking for better ways to pick the right patients for this. And they hope to get better results with new methods.

Though not everyone gets help from immunotherapy, things are getting better.12 Doctors have found that using different treatments together can work well. For example, pairing nivolumab and ipilimumab can help with some kidney cancers.12 And mixing pembrolizumab with chemo helps with others.12 These combos are showing promise for prostate cancer too.

People dealing with prostate cancer are excited about what the future holds. They are hopeful that immunotherapies will become a big part of treating the disease. The goal is to find the best patients and treatments to make these new therapies work their best.


What is the success rate of immunotherapy for prostate cancer?

Immunotherapy is doing well with prostate cancer. Its success depends on things like cancer stage and how the person’s body reacts. In a big study, about one in 20 men who had severe prostate cancer got better with immunotherapy. Some of these “super responders” lived for two years or more, which was surprising.

How effective is immunotherapy for prostate cancer?

In a study, 5% of men with advanced prostate cancer saw their tumors get smaller or go away with immunotherapy. Another 19% had signs the treatment was helping. Men with certain DNA repair issues did even better with this treatment.

What are the survival rates for prostate cancer patients treated with immunotherapy?

A small number of men with serious prostate cancer respond very well to immunotherapy. Some of these “super responders” can live for two years or more, even if doctors didn’t expect them to live long before treatment.

Are there any FDA-approved immunotherapies for prostate cancer?

Yes, three immunotherapies have been approved by the FDA for prostate cancer. They are Sipuleucel-T (Provenge®), Dostarlimab (Jemperli), and Pembrolizumab (Keytruda®).

How does immunotherapy work for prostate cancer?

Immunotherapies make the immune system recognize and kill cancer cells better. They do this by using vaccines and drugs called checkpoint inhibitors. These drugs help take off the brakes from the immune system.

What factors influence the success of immunotherapy for prostate cancer?

Men with certain DNA repair changes seem to do very well with immunotherapy. Scientists are also looking at other signs, like how much the cancer has changed and if it’s unstable, to see who might benefit most from this treatment.

Can immunotherapy be combined with other treatments for prostate cancer?

Yes, doctors are looking into mixing immunotherapies with other cancer treatments. This mix might work better, especially in patients where the cancer is resisting treatment. It could make the immune system stronger against prostate cancer.

How do the side effects of immunotherapy compare to chemotherapy for prostate cancer?

Immunotherapies, like pembrolizumab, often cause less severe side effects than chemo in prostate cancer patients. In a large study, only 15% had serious side effects from immunotherapy. This suggests that for many, immunotherapy is easier to handle than chemo, especially with advanced cancer.

Source Links

  1. https://www.cancerresearch.org/cancer-types/prostate-cancer
  2. https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/cancer-articles/2018/august/an-unexpected-success-for-cancer-immunotherapy-treating-prostate-cancer
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10011447/
  4. https://www.pcf.org/about-prostate-cancer/prostate-cancer-treatment/immunotherapy-prostate-cancer/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8756154/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10297468/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8910587/
  8. https://www.nature.com/articles/nrurol.2012.106
  9. https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2023/10/426446/do-combination-therapies-hold-hope-prostate-cancer-patients
  10. https://www.healthline.com/health/prostate-cancer/prostate-cancer-immunotherapy
  11. https://www.mdpi.com/2339648
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9428569/
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9966657/