Dr. Gomella on the Cost of the Immunotherapy Sipuleucel-T

Leonard G. Gomella, MD
Published: Thursday, Mar 01, 2012

Leonard G. Gomella, MD, Bernard W. Godwin Jr. professor of prostate cancer and chairman of the Department of Urology, director of Clinical Affairs, Jefferson Kimmel Cancer Center, discusses the factors that contribute to the cost of the immunotherapy sipuleucel-T (Provenge) and puts the relative costs of the treatment into perspective.

Sipuleucel-T is a first-in-class drug that uses the patients’ own immune cells to treat prostate cancer. The price, which is connected to the logistics and development of the drug, has helped to impede the agent from meeting prescribing expectations. As a unique agent the development process was very complex and costly. Logistically there was initially only a few processing centers that existed in the US, this number has steadily increased since the drug was approved.

The treatment process remains a complex undertaking that begins with leukapheresis. Once the cells are extracted they are shipped to a processing plant, modified in a sterile environment, and shipped back to the infusion center. This must take place 3 times over the course of 3 weeks. (View more on this process >>> Dr. Alter Discusses the Provenge Treatment Process)

The price of sipuleucel-T is comparable to other cancer treatments, such as those for melanoma and breast cancer. It is not unusual compared to other new and novel therapies for cancer.

Leonard G. Gomella, MD, Bernard W. Godwin Jr. professor of prostate cancer and chairman of the Department of Urology, director of Clinical Affairs, Jefferson Kimmel Cancer Center, discusses the factors that contribute to the cost of the immunotherapy sipuleucel-T (Provenge) and puts the relative costs of the treatment into perspective.

Sipuleucel-T is a first-in-class drug that uses the patients’ own immune cells to treat prostate cancer. The price, which is connected to the logistics and development of the drug, has helped to impede the agent from meeting prescribing expectations. As a unique agent the development process was very complex and costly. Logistically there was initially only a few processing centers that existed in the US, this number has steadily increased since the drug was approved.

The treatment process remains a complex undertaking that begins with leukapheresis. Once the cells are extracted they are shipped to a processing plant, modified in a sterile environment, and shipped back to the infusion center. This must take place 3 times over the course of 3 weeks. (View more on this process >>> Dr. Alter Discusses the Provenge Treatment Process)

The price of sipuleucel-T is comparable to other cancer treatments, such as those for melanoma and breast cancer. It is not unusual compared to other new and novel therapies for cancer.


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