Dendreon Corporation (DNDN) has something devoutly to be wished for, a truly novel cancer therapy that is approved for advanced prostatic cancer. Aside from skin cancers, prostate cancer is the most common cancer type in the United States, with over one million people affected, and despite many treatment options, it is the second leading cause of cancer deaths.
The standard treatment for most cancer types is chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is rough on patients. It uses various chemical agents that kill rapidly growing tumor cells; unfortunately it kills all rapidly growing cells. Among these are blood cell stem cells, hair follicle cells, and those that line the gastrointestinal tract. Thus chemotherapy patients become anemic due to loss of red blood cells, become immunodeficient due to a loss of white blood cells, lose their hair, and suffer gastric distress. Many chemotherapy agents are actually carcinogenic; they reduce the size of the current tumor at the risk of producing cell mutations which result in later tumors.
Dendreon’s Provenge treatment uses the body’s own immune system to fight the tumor. The company isolates antigen-presenting cells from the patient. These are immunized in vitro with the prostate cancer antigen prostatic acid phosphatase (PAP), while being stimulated with a hormone that causes the cells to become active. The cells are then reintroduced into the patient, where they activate the cancer fighting T cells of the immune system. Provenge has been shown to prolong the life of patients, although it is still a treatment, rather than a cure.To continue reading, click here.