The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new treatment for men with advanced prostate cancer on April 29, 2010. The new treatment, called Provenge, is the first of its kind.
Here’s how Provenge works: The treatment works with the body’s immune system to fight the cancer. Disease-fighting white blood cells are removed from the patient and sent to a Seattle-based lab where they are combined with a cancer protein that makes them attack cancer cells in the body. The cells are then shipped back and re-infused into the patient.
In a statement on the FDA’s website, Karen Midthun, M.D., acting director the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research said: “The availability of Provenge provides a new treatment option for men with advanced prostate cancer, who currently have limited effective therapies available.”
The study for Provenge was conducted on 512 prostate cancer patients who lived an average of four months longer than those who did not receive the treatment.
Side affects were reported, ranging from fever and fatigue to more serious reactions like stroke. The more serious side affects were reported in one-fourth of the study participants.
While the approval of this treatment is good news and considered a breakthrough in the treatment of prostate cancer, it isn’t widely available yet and comes with a hefty price tag of $90,000+ per patient for three doses. Experts hope that Provenge becomes more widely available in as little as a year and that men with earlier stages of prostate cancer will be eligible for the treatment. Currently, there are only 2,000 doses available and those doses went to centers involved in the FDA approval process.