"There are problems with Provenge," Soloway said. "One is that it's very cumbersome, because patients have to provide their white cells, and I think that's on a regular basis. And two, it's likely to be very expensive." Costs are expected to total $75,000 for the full regimen, experts say.
Soloway agreed that Provenge might also be useful in earlier-stage prostate cancer, but studies are needed to prove that.
However, "once it's approved, it's on the market, and with proper informed consent you can use it for localized [early stage] prostate cancer. Whether insurance companies will pay for it is also not known," Soloway said.
Other new drugs to treat prostate cancer, such as Abiraterone, which prevents the production of the male hormone testosterone, are on the horizon and will compete with Provenge for new treatment regimens, he added.
According to American Cancer Society estimates, more than 192,000 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year, and 27,360 men die from the disease.
Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer diagnosed in American men, after skin cancer. More than 2 million American men who have had prostate cancer at some point are still alive today. The death rate is going down, and the disease is being found earlier, according to the cancer society.
For more on prostate cancer, visit the American Cancer Society.
SOURCES: J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, M.D., deputy chief medical officer, American Cancer Society; Mark Soloway, M.D., professor and chair of urology, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine; April 29, 2010, news release, U.S. Food and Drug Administration
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