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Published on April 29, 2010

Breakthrough treatment extends the lives of prostate cancer patients

Treatment available at UCH, but limited for first year

AURORA, Colo. – The Food and Drug Administration has approved an immune therapy against prostate cancer. It’s a major breakthrough that will extend the lives of many advanced stage prostate cancer patients.

L. Michael Glodé, MD (left), and Thomas Flaig, MD, head the
Provenge program at University of Colorado Hospital.

Dendreon, the company that manufactures the activated immune therapy called Provenge, says only a limited number of patients will be able to get the treatment in the next 12 months while manufacturing gets up to full speed. The treatment will be available at University of Colorado Hospital.

“Years of research have provided evidence that the immune system fights cancer, but this is the first time an immune-therapy approach has received FDA approval with a large scale clinical trial,” said L. Michael Glodé, Robert Rifkin chair of prostate cancer research at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and associate director of the outreach program at the University of Colorado Cancer Center. “Unfortunately, the availability of the therapy will be limited at first while the company opens new manufacturing facilities. Initially, we expect to treat 1 to 3 patients a month and the issues with the manufacturer should be resolved in about a year.”

How it works

Provenge trains the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells. The therapy involves removing white blood cells from the patient through a process called apheresis, and then mixing the cells with a drug designed to stimulate the emergence of target specific cancer cells. The treated blood is then infused back into the patient. A large number of patients involved in the research that led to the approval of this immune therapy have been treated at University of Colorado Hospital.

“This vaccine could form the basis for optimism that we can finally develop better immunologic treatments for common cancers, including prostate cancer,” said Thomas Flaig, MD, assistant professor in medical oncology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and member of the therapeutic development program at the University of Colorado Cancer Center. 

During clinical trials, the therapy extended the lives of advanced stage prostate cancer patients who have progressed despite hormone therapy by a median of four months. Three year survival rates are also better in those who received Provenge in the clinical trial compared with those receiving the placebo.

More than 192,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year in the U.S.; 27,000 of them die. Prostate cancer is the third most common cause of death from cancer in men of all ages and is the most common cause of death from cancer in men over age 75. It is rarely found in men younger than 40.

Provenge will be available at University of Colorado Hospital. To find more information about this innovative immune therapy, call (720) 848-4500 or go to

The University of Colorado Hospital is the Rocky Mountain region's leading academic medical center, and has been recognized as one of the United States’ best hospitals, according to U.S. News & World Report. It is best known as an innovator in patient care and often as one of the first hospitals to bring new medicine to patients’ bedsides. Located at the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colo., the hospital’s physicians are all affiliated with the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine, part of the University of Colorado system. For more information, visit the UC Denver Newsroom.

Dendreon Corporation is a biotechnology company targeting cancer and transforming lives through the discovery, development, commercialization and manufacturing of novel therapeutics. The Company applies its expertise in antigen identification, engineering and cell processing to produce active cellular immunotherapy product candidates designed to stimulate an immune response in a variety of tumor types. Dendreon’s first active cellular immunotherapy product, PROVENGE® (sipuleucel-T), was approved by the FDA in April 2010 for the treatment of asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic metastatic, castrate-resistant (hormone-refractory) prostate cancer.

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Erika Matich