BOSTONToday's announcement that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Provenge, a new form of therapy for some prostate cancer patients, marks the beginning of an era in which patients' own immune systems become part of the standard therapeutic arsenal against cancer, say Dana-Farber Cancer Institute investigators who led a study of the treatment's effectiveness in patients.
The study the results of which were presented most recently at the 2010 Genitourinary American Society of Clinical Oncology's annual meeting is the first large, controlled clinical trial to show that an immune system-based therapy can extend the lives of cancer patients, according to the trial's leader, Philip Kantoff, MD, of Dana-Farber.
"For more than 20 years, scientists have been working on harnessing the immune system in a way that has beneficial effects for cancer patients, notably the prolongation of survival," Kantoff said. "Our study provides proof that such an approach can work."
Unlike preventive vaccines, which bolster the immune system to protect people from contracting an illness, Provenge is an "autologous cellular immunotherapy," or a therapeutic vaccine, that marshals the immune system's disease-fighting forces for people who already have prostate cancer.
The immunotherapy is produced by removing some of a patient's white blood cells a process called leukapheresis and then exposing them to a protein from prostate cancer cells and a stimulatory molecule. The process primes the white blood cells to stimulate the immune system and attack prostate cancer when they are re-injected into the body.
The clinical study, a Phase III trial conducted at cancer treatment centers across the country, enrolled 512 patients with advanced prostate cancer that had spread beyond the prostate gland and that grew even when deprived of the hormone androgen, a condition known as metastatic hormone-resistant prostate cancer. Patients
|Contact: Teresa Herbert|
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute