August 10, 2012
The Cancer Center at Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) is pleased to announce that a new type of immunotherapy is now available for patients with prostate cancer. The cancer vaccine sipuleucel-T, commercially branded as Provenge, is offered to prostate cancer patients through two local oncology practices, Northeast Georgia Diagnostic Clinic and The Longstreet Clinic, P.C., both of which are affiliated with the Cancer Center at NGMC.
Provenge was the first cancer treatment vaccine to be approved by the FDA for prostate cancer. In clinical trials, it was proven to extend life expectancy in men with prostate cancer and demonstrated a reduction in the risk for death due to prostate cancer.
“Provenge works by teaching the patient's immune system to recognize the cancer as foreign,” says Andre Kallab, MD, an oncologist at Northeast Georgia Diagnostic Clinic. “Provenge is made from a patient’s own immune cells. Cells are removed from the patient and trained to target a protein found primarily in prostate tumor cells.”
Provenge treatment has been approved for patients who meet the following criteria. First, the patient must have received hormone therapy but still have rising prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels. Second, the cancer must have spread beyond the prostate; and third, the patient should be asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic and not require pain medication due to the cancer.
“The treatment cycle is only about six weeks long, and generally side effects are mild, flu-like symptoms following infusion,” says Charles Nash, III, MD, an oncologist with The Longstreet Clinic, P.C., and medical director of The Cancer Center at NGMC. “A patient's blood is drawn, and through a process called leukapherisis, the white blood cells are separated from the rest of the blood. Some of the patient’s immune cells are collected and exposed to a protein which stimulates and directs them against prostate cancer. Next, the activated immune cells are returned to the patient, and the patient's own immune system begins to attack the prostate cancer.”
“Provenge is not a cancer cure, but it is a way to prolong survival,” says Dr. Kallab. “The average addition to life expectancy is just over four months, but some patients see one to two years of benefit.”
Dr. Nash agrees. “Provenge improves survival. For patients who have undergone early treatment for prostate cancer and are still seeing rising PSA levels, this tool can mean a longer, higher quality of life. I'd recommend that prostate cancer patients who are in early relapse explore the option of Provenge treatment before the disease begins to make them sick. There is a window of opportunity for the patient to begin the treatments, so public awareness is important as is quick action on the part of patients and their physicians.”
Provenge treatment is covered by most insurance companies and by Medicare. To learn more about this treatment option for prostate cancer, contact Northeast Georgia Diagnostic Clinic at 770-536-9864 or The Longstreet Clinic, P.C., at 770-297-5700.
To learn more about prostate cancer treatment at NGMC, click here.