Uncontrolled cancer cell growth results from misbehaving genes. An intriguing approach to cancer therapy is to identify the mutated genes and target treatment to specifically counteract the damaging effects of that gene...
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SEAL BEACH, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Dendreon Pharmaceuticals LLC (“Dendreon”) today announced the close of a transaction in which Sanpower Group, a private Chinese conglomerate, acquired Dendreon from an affiliate of Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Inc. for $819.9 million in cash.
New prostate cancer drugs come to market quite rarely because the studies mandated by the FDA cost hundreds of millions of dollars. The FDA requires these studies to randomly allocate men into two comparison groups. One group receives the new medicine being tested. The other group gets an ineffective fake, called a placebo. Assuming the study is performed in an acceptable manner, the FDA will approve a new drug for commercial use, only if the men who are receiving the new medicine outlive those treated with the placebo by a specified margin without excessive toxicity.
In my last blog I contended that of all the different ways to treat cancer—hormone therapy, chemotherapy, radiation or surgery for example—immune therapy has the greatest potential to save lives: Only the immune system, by its very nature, has the ability to adapt to the many thousands of varieties of cancer. Also, new breakthroughs in understanding how it works have led to real progress inharnessing the immune system to fight cancer.
In 2010, Provenge was approved by the FDA, the first approved prostate cancer treatment that functions by enhancing the immune system. Over the last couple ofyears Provenge has been gaining popularity with oncologists and urologists as well as with patients. What has been surprising to me is how slowly doctors and patients have warmed up to the idea of using the immune system to fight prostate cancer. For years my patients have been taking handfuls of Graviola, Shitaki mushrooms, Pau de Arco and Esiac tea because of unsubstantiated claims of immune enhancement. Yet, when the FDA approved an effective immune treatment that prolongs life I was surprised that my patients needed to be convinced to use it.
Every day in the office, as a practicing prostate oncologist, I confront serious problems: PSA levels that are rising, treatments causing too many side effects, patients desperately worried about their future. And sometimes, given our limited tools, the solutions we can offer are only partial. However, every time the FDA approves a new treatment there is an excitement akin to opening gifts on Christmas morning. All of a sudden we have a shiny new tool in the tool chest to help us do a better job.
Using the immune system to fight cancer is a rapidly advancing area of research. The immune system (as it relates to fighting cancer) is made up of three components: 1) regulatory cells (TRegs), 2) killer cells, and 3) detector cells otherwise known as dendritic cells. Dendritic cells activate the killer cells and help them “home in” on the cancer.