|Abbeville Area Medical Center (AAMC) has recently started offering Provenge, a groundbreaking treatment for certain men with advanced prostate cancer. The hospital is one of only a few facilities in South Carolina offering the treatment.
Provenge uses the patient’s own immune system by training the body’s immune cells to seek out and attack prostate cancer cells, working much like a vaccine. It is also the only FDA-approved prostate cancer immunotherapy.
How does it work? The patient goes to a blood center where blood is drawn and is processed by a specialized machine. The machine collects a small portion of the patient’s immune cells along with some platelets and a small number of red blood cells, a process called Leukapheresis. The machine then returns the remainder of the cells and blood to the patient’s body. The process usually takes three to four hours.
The collected cells are sent to a facility where it is made into a dose of Provenge by adding a “recombinant antigen,” or a protein that is designed to produce an immune response (similar to a vaccine) to prostate cancer, specifically for the patient.
The patient returns to the hospital In three days when the Provenge medication is infused into the body, taking approximately two hours. This process occurs three times and is given approximately two weeks apart. Side effects are typically minimal and can include chills, fatigue, fever, joint pain, nausea and headache.
According to Provenge literature, in a clinical study the drug reduced the risk of death in men by 22.5 percent. To receive the drug, the prostate cancer must have spread to other areas of the body, is not responding to hormone therapy and the patient is not taking narcotics for prostate cancer-related pain.
The treatment is expensive but is covered by some insurance companies. There is also financial assistance available by contacting Provenge. AAMC has treated three patients with the drug.
“I am very proud to be able to provide this ground-breaking treatment to my patients,” said Michael Turner, MD of Abbeville Urology. “It has the capability to provide long-term remission for prostate cancer patients with almost no side effects.”
For more information on Provenge, contact Abbeville Urology at (864) 366-6060.