What is the Procedure with Provenge for Prostate Cancer?

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Provenge is a recently approved therapy for advanced prostate cancer that is tailored to your specific cancer.

Brief overview of the Provenge procedure

The Provenge procedure involves the harvesting of your immune cells, a special treatment of those cells, and then a reinfusion of the specially treated cells.

Your immune cells are collected through a process called pheresis (sort of like donating blood) that requires you to go to a center experienced in the handling and treatment of blood products. Your immune cells are then individually treated in order to develop your personalized Provenge infusion.

Prostate cancer cells have certain specific qualities that can be recognized by the immune system. Without using Provenge, these cells fly under the radar and your body may not develop a very robust immune response to your cancer. Provenge causes your immune system to better recognize these cells and stimulate the growth of the cells that act against the prostate cancer cells.

When you receive your Provenge infusion, your enhanced immune cells  find and attack the cancer cells in your body. Your Provenge infusion increases your body’s immune response to your cancer. In this sense the Provenge procedure is a personalized and tailored treatment specifically for your prostate cancer. Unlike other treatments for advanced prostate cancer, you may not see a drop in PSA levels with this type of treatment.

You might ask yourself if the Provenge procedure is a type of chemotherapy? Provenge is not a form of chemotherapy nor a hormone treatment. Rather, the Provenge procedure is an immunotherapy.

Most common Provenge procedure side effects

The most frequent Provenge procedure side effects are flulike symptoms including:

•    Chills
•    Fatigue
•    Fever
•    Joint pain
•    Headache
•    Muscle aches and pains
•    Nausea

Other frequent (>10 percent of patients) Provenge procedure side effects include:
•    Anemia
•    Dizziness
•    Weakness

Who is a good candidate for the Provenge procedure?

You may benefit from Provenge if:

•    Your PSA is rising despite standard hormone therapy
•    Your prostate cancer has spread to other parts of your body
•    Narcotics are not required to control your pain

Does the Provenge procedure work?

In the clinical trial that led to FDA approval of Provenge, more men undergoing treatment with Provenge were alive at 3 years compared to those not treated with Provenge. The risk of death in the Provenge group was 22% less than in the non-treatment group. Life expectancy overall was improved by 4.5 months in the Provenge group compared to the group not receiving Provenge.

Does my doctor administer the Provenge procedure?

If you think Provenge might be for you, talk with your doctor. Not all doctors have the infrastructure and support capabilities to collect and infuse the Provenge procedure for their patients. However,  your doctor may refer you to a treatment center that provides the Provenge procedure.

Read more in our Prostate Cancer Health Center.


American Cancer Society. Prostate Cancer. Accessed June 22, 2013.

Higano CS et al. Integrated data from 2 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, phase 3 trials of active cellular immunotherapy with sipuleucel-T in advanced prostate cancer. Cancer 2009; 115(16):3670.

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