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The treatment of organ-confined prostate cancer has involved cutting out, radiating, or freezing the gland to try to cure the disease. In more advanced cases, the goal has been to control the cancer for at least some time by using hormone therapy or chemotherapy. Earlier diagnosis and improved treatment techniques in recent years have certainly led to better results. Interestingly, however, early diagnosis of prostate cancer, and/or early treatment of prostate cancer has not improved the prostate cancer specific survival or overall survival from prostate cancer.
The key to curing prostate cancer, however, ultimately will come from an understanding of the genetic basis of this disease. Genes, which are segments of DNA located on the chromosomes, determine the characteristics of individuals. Accordingly, investigators at research centers have focused on identifying and isolating the gene, or genes, responsible for prostate cancer. Studies have uncovered some of the genetic links to the disease. Now studies will be performed to try to block, or modify, the offending genes to prevent or alter the disease. Finally, a vaccine to treat prostate cancer — Sipuleucel-T (Provenge) — is in use. There is no vaccine to prevent prostate cancer.