Dendreon shares soar, as do prostate cancer patients' hopes

From looking at the action on Dendreon Corp. (DNDN) shares today, you'd think the company found a cure to cancer. Well . . . not quite, but it may have definitely made a milestone when it comes to cancer therapy. Dendreon reported this morning that its experimental prostate cancer treatment, the therapeutic vaccine Provenge, was significantly successful in prolonging patient survival. This may clear the way for the long-awaited regulatory approval for the drug.

The active immunotherapy drug is different from standard chemotherapy as it aims to train the patient's own immune system to attack the cancer. Provenge is produced from a patient's white blood cells and tumor proteins, administered when the disease no longer responds to hormone blockers (the standard treatment). Not only does it have fewer side effects than chemo, it may be a more precise way to attack cancer rather than flooding the body with poison. While it's called a therapeutic vaccine, it does not prevent the disease, but treats it once the patient is already ill. Provenge is now the first of its kind to prolong survival in cancer patients.