According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is now the second leading cause of cancer death among American men and the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Colorado today.
Provenge, a new cell-based immune therapy for patients with metastatic, castration-resistant, hormone-therapy-resistant prostate cancer, was approved last Thursday by the FDA. It is considered a landmark when it comes to cancer treatment as it employs the human body's own white blood cells to fight the disease, rather than exogenous chemicals such as those used in chemotherapy.
Traditionally, cancer is fought by either surgically removing the tumor, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or a combination of these treatments. Surgery can be invasive and dangerous, and chemotherapy and radiation therapy can have very unpleasant side effects, such as hair loss, weight loss and severe nausea and vomiting. But the Provenge process involves merely harvesting some of the patient's own white blood cells (which are responsible for fighting infection and foreign bodies) and "activating" them using Provenge, then re-introducing them into the patient's body in their more active (and therefore more aggressive against cancer) form. It is much less invasive than surgery and has far milder side effects (in clinical trials most patients on Provenge reported flu-like symptoms that lasted only a few days). Provenge has been classified as a vaccine, but it is meant as treatment for patients who already have the disease rather than a preventative measure against developing prostate cancer in healthy individuals.
It remains to be seen whether insurance company will cover the cost of this rather expensive new drug (Investment firm J.P. Morgan estimates a full course of Provenge will cost $65,000; estimates by other investors put it between $50,000 and $100,000, making it unobtainable by many).
For more information visit CNN's article regarding Provenge.