Thursday, April 16, 2009

Prostate Cancer, Provenge, Therapeutic Vaccine, Dendreon Corporation

I read yesterday that Dendreon Corporation had announced initial findings of a second study that was completed evaluating the effectiveness of a vaccine for treatment of advanced prostate cancer. This is big news as there have not been very effective treatments for cancer that has spread outside of the prostate capsule. As I have mentioned before prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men with 186,000 new cases per year in the United States and 28,000 deaths. There is no effective chemotherapy. Radiation treatment is only helpful for localized spread and hormone treatment for metastatic disease is not that good, so anything that might be helpful is good news.

Dendreon Corporation is trying to get FDA approval for Provenge cancer vaccine. It would be the first cancer vaccine on the market. It does not prevent disease but is a "therapeutic" vaccine that trains the immune system to fight tumors. Provenge is made from the patient's own immune blood cells that are mixed with a protein found on most prostate cancer cells and is given back to the patient in 3 separate infusions given 2 weeks apart. These "trained" immune cells then fight the cancer cells.

The company did not release the details of the Provenge study nor side effects which will be presented at an American Urological Association conference later this year. The study involved 512 men with cancer that had spread outside the prostate and was no longer responding to hormone treatment. It was found that the drug does not slow the progression of the disease but does increase survival time by 4 1/2 months or longer. While this as an average doesn't seem that much, in practical terms three year survival rates were 34% vs. 11% without treatment. For prostate cancer treatment those are big numbers. I am interested to see the full report when it becomes available.

Thought for the day

"Cast all your anxieties on Him because He cares for you"

St. Peter

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