Dendreon and Provenge make good with FDA

Hypodermic Needle

Dendreon Provenge treatments are a little more complex than a shot. From Wikimedia Commons

The Food and Drug Administration has approved Provenge, a anti-cancer vaccine made by Dendreon, for use in treating prostate cancer.  The drug is the first anti-cancer vaccine to get FDA approval.  The drug was found to extend the life of cancer patients by a median of four months.  That said, the process behind the vaccine is in its infancy, and treatment would require a lot of cash now to get.  The drug is so far a success story, and a potential precursor to better ways of treating one of the world’s worst diseases.

Dendreon Provenge study results

According to WebMD, the results of the Dendreon Provenge study, done by researchers unaffiliated with the company, found that patients suffering from prostate cancer lived a median of 4.1 months longer than those who received the placebo. Follow up studies indicated that 32 percent of Provenge treated subjects remained alive three years after treatment, compared with just 23 percent of subjects that received the placebo.

Not just a simple shot

Provenge isn’t just a simple shot, it’s a process.  Immune cells are harvested, and then transported to Dendreon laboratories.  There they are treated with Provenge, a proprietary hormone treatment process, and once confirmed as being sufficiently modified, are re-introduced into the patient’s system in a three dose series.  It works by altering immune system responses, so that any cancer cells that would be mistaken for ordinary cells are recognized as a danger. So far, it is not expected to be cheap, at all. The costs of a course of treatment are expected to run between $40,000 and $100,000.

Kind of a breakthrough

The Dendreon Prevenge treatment will not prevent cancer, it’s only a treatment.  There are no dyed-in-the-wool cures for cancer as yet, but this is at least a positive step in that direction.  The only vaccines against cancer are actually vaccines against certain strains of the human papillomavirus, which can cause cervical cancer.  This may be the dawn of further breakthroughs, as strides against cancer are being made all the time.  Perhaps a cure will be found in the next generations.

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