US regulators have approved a ground-breaking treatment for advanced prostate cancer that uses a patient's own immune system to fight the disease, officials said Thursday.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said the treatment called Provenge is designed for use by men in the advanced stages of prostate cancer, whose illness has spread to other parts of the body and is resistant to standard hormone treatment.
"Provenge provides a new treatment option for men with advanced prostate cancer who currently have limited effective therapies available," said Karen Midthun, acting director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.
The new treatment, developed by the Seattle-based Dendreon Corporation, involves extracting a patient's immune cells from his blood in a process known as leukapheresis.
To boost the patient's response against cancer, the immune cells are exposed to a protein found in most prostate cancers before being reintroduced intravenously to the patient's body.
The procedure stimulates a patient's own immune system to respond against the cancer, medical experts said.
The effectiveness of Provenge was studied in 512 patients with metastatic prostate cancer in a random, double-blind trial and showed an increase in overall survival of 4.1 months, the US agency said.
Prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer among men in the United States, behind skin cancer, and usually occurs in older men.
In 2009, there were an estimated 192,000 new cases of prostate cancer diagnosed in the United States, and about 27,000 men died from the disease, according to the US National Cancer Institute.