Autologous Cellular Immunotherapy (PROVENGE®) is an innovative advanced prostate cancer treatment option that uses a body’s immune system to fight its cancer. This is not chemotherapy, and it has none of chemotherapy’s side effects. Nor is it a hormone therapy. PROVENGE is a whole new way of treating disease.
In the first stage, called a leukapheresis procedure, the patient’s blood is filtered to remove some white blood cells. The cells are mixed with drugs that help them multiply and with prostate cancer proteins. This gives the cells the ability to recognize and fight prostate cancer in the patient’s body.
In the second phase, three days later, the white blood cells are infused back into the patient’s body through an IV.
Since this treatment uses a patient’s own blood cells, there are very few, if any, side effects—no allergic reaction and no risk of organ damage. However, there are some drawbacks.
First, there’s a limit to how well the immune system can fight cancer. After treatment, it can take the new white blood cells up to six months to start fighting cancer and recruit other cells to do the same. During that time, the cancer can progress. For this reason, we prefer to use Provenge early in the advanced prostate cancer process.
If there is too much cancer, it can simply overwhelm the immune system. It may be appropriate to combine Provenge with some of the other treatments. PSA value can rise even when this treatment is working.
But even if the cancer seems to be growing after Provenge, it appears, that for many, that growth is slower than it would have been if they hadn’t received Provenge. There is also evidence that ten years after Provenge, patients’ immune systems continue to show anti-cancer activity.
The most common side effects are primarily mild or moderate. These side effects include chills, fatigue, fever, back pain, nausea, joint ache, and headache
Your urologist will refer to you to a certified American Red Cross apharesis center in your area, where your leukapheresis procedure will be performed. The procedure, which lasts three to four hours, may cause dizziness, fatigue, tingling in the fingers and around the mouth, feeling cold, fainting, or nausea.
Provenge is infused three times, with about two weeks between each infusion. Because doses of Provenge have short lifespans, it’s crucial to stick to this schedule.