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OHSU Knight Cancer Institute Among First in Nation to Treat Prostate Cancer Patients With New Immunotherapy

The drug, Provenge, uses patients’ own immune cells to attack prostate cancer

 The Oregon Health & Science University Knight Cancer Institute will be among the first sites in the nation to treat advanced prostate cancer patients with the newest drug approved by the FDA to fight the disease.

Provenge® (sipuleucel-T) is a new autologous (made from a patient’s own immune cells) cellular immunotherapy drug designed to stimulate a patient’s immune system to attack prostate cancer. Each dose is manufactured specifically for each patient using his immune cells. Provenge is intended for the treatment of men with metastatic prostate cancer that is resistant to standard hormone treatment, and who have minimal or no symptoms of the disease.
About three days before each infusion, the patient’s immune cells will be collected and flown to a manufacturing facility run by Dendreon, the company that makes the immunotherapy. To enhance their response against the cancer, the immune cells will be processed with a recombinant protein that is found in most prostate cancers and linked to an immune-stimulating substance. After this process, the activated cells, now called Provenge, are flown back to the patient’s hospital, where he will be treated intravenously. Treatment with Provenge involves three doses given approximately two weeks apart.

“This is groundbreaking medicine,” said Tomasz Beer, M.D., director of the OHSU Prostate Cancer Research Program and deputy director of OHSU Knight Cancer Institute. “Immunologic therapy for prostate cancer has the potential to bring new hope to qualifying patients and their families. We at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute are pleased to offer this drug and the possibilities it carries.”

The OHSU Knight Cancer Institute was actively engaged in clinical trials, funded by Dendreon, to test Provenge prior to regulatory approval. Beer, a medical oncologist who specializes in prostate cancer and a professor of medicine in the Department of Hematology and Oncology at OHSU, has led these efforts and has provided national leadership to the Phase II trial evaluating Provenge in earlier stages of prostate cancer.

The first OHSU Knight Cancer Institute patient to receive Provenge will be 64-year-old Clarence “Motts” Thomas of Bandon, Ore.  Thomas equates receiving Provenge to being “kissed by an angel,” and feels eager to begin his course of treatment in June.

“Whatever happens I think this is going to be so fabulous,” he said. “I can’t wait for my little leukocytes [white blood cells] to be turned into prostate cancer warriors.” Prior to qualifying for Provenge treatments, Thomas was looking at chemotherapy, which he describes as “debilitating.” “Prostate cancer gives you a new normal, whether it’s cooking an egg, walking your dog,” he explained. “And you have to adjust to this new normal. It’s always there. Provenge gives me options and treatment possibilities down the road that are not debilitating, that don’t affect our everyday lives.”

Because of limited supply, the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute and other sites will be accepting only a small number of patients per month for Provenge treatment. As manufacturing capacity increases, the Comprehensive Prostate Cancer Clinic will be able to provide Provenge to additional patients.  

Patients interested in knowing whether they qualify to receive Provenge therapy should contact the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute Comprehensive Prostate Cancer Clinic at 503 418-5129. A nurse coordinator will talk with each patient to determine whether he is a candidate for Provenge or other unique treatments available at the institute. An appointment will then be made for evaluation by one of the OHSU Knight Cancer institute’s Prostate Cancer Clinic physicians. Initially, current OHSU Knight Cancer Institute patients who live in the Pacific Northwest region will be given priority for the limited treatment slots available.

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About the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute Visit
With the latest treatments, technologies, hundreds of research studies and approximately 400 clinical trials, the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center between Sacramento and Seattle— an honor earned only by the nation's top cancer centers. The honor is shared among the more than 650 doctors, nurses, scientists and staff who work together at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute to reduce the impact of cancer.

About OHSU
The Oregon Health & Science University is the state's only health and research university, and Oregon's only academic health center. OHSU is Portland's largest employer and the fourth largest in Oregon (excluding government). OHSU’s size contributes to its ability to provide many services and community support activities not found anywhere else in the state. OHSU serves patients from every corner of the state, and is a conduit for learning for more than 3,400 students and trainees. OHSU is the source of more than 200 community outreach programs that bring health and education services to every county in the state.

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