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Published on 4 May 2010

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Immunotherapy for cancer approved


A unique treatment for prostate cancer which harnesses the patient’s immune system has been approved by US regulators.

The vaccine, called Provenge, offers people an additional alternative to more intensive treatment such as chemotherapy.

Manufactured by biotech cancer therapy firm Dendreon, Provenge “teaches” the patient’s immune system how to fight tumours and has been described as a “vaccine”, despite it not preventing disease.

The production of such an immunotherapy has been in the pipeline for decades, although Provenge is the first one to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.

The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Dr Phil Kantoff, who helped develop Provenge, said: “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.”

Experimental treatments for other cancers, such as melanoma and the often-fatal childhood tumour neuroblastoma, are approaching the end of their development.

Provenge is to be used on patients who have prostate cancer which has spread around the body and which has not responded to hormone therapy.

Copyright Press Association 2010
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

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