As I have discussed, immunological therapy will be a significant cancer treatment option in the future, but how will it actually develop and what will it look like?

Provenge (sipuleucel-T), for the treatment of men with advanced prostate cancer, was the first FDA approved autologous immunologic vaccine therapy for any type of cancer. However, Provenge is very expensive ($93,000 US) for the required three rounds of treatment and its manufacturing and administration is rather cumbersome. But, the bottom-line is that it does extend life, the gold standard we all seek.

Immunotherapy is different than chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is designed to attack quickly growing cells which include both the target cancer cells as well as other fast growing healthy cells like your hair and nails. Immunotherapy stimulates a patient’s immune system to attack tumors and ultimately prolong survival.

Provenge works by using the man’s own immune cells (autologous) to stimulate the immune system to attack tumors ultimately prolonging a man’s survival. However, every dose of Provenge is personalized and made to order for each individual patient, a costly and inefficient process.

I am pleased that autologous immunologic therapy will progress and become both less expensive and easier to administer as our experience grows. However, despite the logistical and manufacturing challenges of personalized immune cell therapy, Provenge is relatively safe and can elicit a sufficient immune response against tumors to improve survival.

Prior to the approval of Provenge in 2010 to treat advanced prostate cancer; many researchers questioned whether an autologous cancer immunotherapy was commercially viable. Dendreon (the makers of Provenge) has sho