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Vaccine Boosts Survival for Men With Advanced Prostate Cancer: Study
Date:7/28/2010

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, July 28 (HealthDay News) -- A newly approved therapeutic prostate cancer vaccine extended the lives of men with metastatic tumors resistant to standard hormonal treatment, a new study shows.

The vaccine, called Provenge (sipuleucel-T), improved survival by about four months compared with no treatment and involved less toxicity than chemotherapy. However, with a round of treatment potentially costing $93,000, the therapy could be out of the financial reach of many patients.

"The strategy of trying to harness the immune system to fight cancer has been something that people have tried to attain for many years; this is one such strategy," said lead researcher Dr. Philip Kantoff, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a medical oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

One expert said the therapy, while far from a cure, "looks promising." Dr. Elizabeth Kavaler, an urologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said that, "in this unfortunate category of [hormone-resistant] patient, we have very little to offer. Adding months to a man's life is better than doing nothing, especially if the treatment involves minimal morbidity, as this vaccine promises."

The new study, funded by the vaccine's maker, Dendreon, is published in the July 29 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Provenge is a therapeutic (not preventive) vaccine made from the patient's own white blood cells. Once removed from the patient, the cells are treated with the drug and placed back into the patient. These treated cells then trigger an immune response that in turn kills cancer cells, leaving normal cells unharmed. Provenge is given intravenously in a three-dose schedule delivered in two-week intervals.

In April, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Provenge for treatment of prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the
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