A first-of-its-kind prostate cancer treatment that uses the body’s defences to fight the disease has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.
Called a vaccine even though it treats rather than prevents the condition, Dendreon’s Provenge “trains” the immune system to fight tumours.
The disease is currently managed through the use of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, invasive procedures that can have serious side effects.
Doctors are hopeful the drug can be used as an effective alternative to such methods.
“The big news here is that this is the first immunotherapy to win approval, and I suspect within five to 10 years immunotherapies will be a big part of cancer therapy in general,” said Dr Phil Kantoff, an oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute who helped run the studies of Provenge.
Each regimen is specially tailored to the immune system of individual patients, a process that sees doctors mix a sample of the cancer cells with the drug and a protein found in most tumours, before injecting the resulting vaccine into the recipient.
Side-effects, mild as they are, include chills, fatigue, fever, and headache.
Earlier research on Provenge showed that it added an average of four months to the lives of men with advanced prostate cancer.
Copyright Press Association 2010