Norris Cotton Cancer Center Introduces New Prostate Therapy

September 19, 2011
Lebanon, NH

Patients with advanced prostate cancer now can choose an alternative to surgery and chemotherapy at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center, which is among the first sites in the United States to offer treatment with sipuleucel-T.

In late August, the Cancer Center treated the first patient in northern New England to undergo a procedure with sipuleucel-T. Sold under the brand name Provenge, sipuleucel-T is the first in a new class of treatment known as autologous cellular immunotherapies.

"What's exciting about this line of therapy is that it uses the patient's own immune system to fight was is essentially an immune problem," says Deborah Lindberg, RN, MBA, a research nurse in the Cancer Center's Prostate & Genitourinary Cancer Program who worked closely with Frank Schell, MD, to institute Provenge therapy at Norris Cotton Cancer Center. She describes the first patient as having "sailed through" the treatment.

Provenge is derived from the patient's own immune cells (hence, autologous), with each dose unique to that patient, and the therapy is designed to stimulate a patient's immune system to identify and target prostate cancer cells. The new drug, made by Dendreon Corp. in Seattle, Wash., was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of men with asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic metastatic castrate resistant (hormone refractory) prostate cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in the United States and the third most common cancer worldwide. More than two million men in the United States have prostate cancer, with an estimated 217,730 new cases in 2010.

Typically, patients with threatening prostate cancer are treated with surgery or chemotherapy, both of which can have significant side effects, including incontinence and loss of sexual function. In clinical trials, the most common adverse events (incidence ≥15 percent) reported for Provenge included chills, fatigue, fever, back pain, nausea, joint ache, and headache.

A patient receives three courses of treatment about two weeks apart each; the full set of three courses takes about a month. Usually a patient will have blood cells drawn early in the week to create the Provenge dose, which is then reinfused into the patient late in the week, according to Lindberg.

The early success of the Provenge program at the Cancer Center has encouraged other patients with metastatic prostate cancer to give the therapy a try. Currently, five patients "are in the pipeline" for Provenge treatment, says Lindberg, who adds. "This can literally be a life-saver for some patients."

About Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center
Norris Cotton Cancer Center logo

Norris Cotton Cancer Center combines advanced cancer research at Dartmouth College and Dartmouth Medical School with patient-centered cancer care provided at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, at Dartmouth-Hitchcock regional locations in Manchester and Keene, NH, and St. Johnsbury, VT, and at 11 partner hospitals throughout New Hampshire and Vermont. It is recognized and designated by the National Cancer Institute for its breadth and depth as one of just 40 Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the U.S.  Learn more about Norris Cotton Cancer Center research, programs, and clinical trials at

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