Biotechnology group Cell Genesys’ GVAX immunotherapy has shown promise in the treatment of early prostate cancer. A Phase I/II trial, looking at the effect of GVAX in 21 treatment-naive patients with rising levels of prostate-specific antigen - a protein associated with the development of cancer – showed that the drug was able to slow down the rise in PSA in 76% of patients tested.

The agent is already being tested for advanced prostate cancer in a late-stage programme, but these data suggest it may have potential utility in other stages of the disease. Joseph Vallner, President and Chief Operating Officer of the company, remarked: “We believe that GVAX immunotherapy for prostate cancer may have potential for the treatment of prostate cancer at various stages of the disease and we look forward to initiation of future label-expansion studies.”

GVAX immunotherapy for prostate cancer consists of two prostate cancer cell lines that have been altered to secrete an immune stimulatory hormone, which plays a key role in kick-starting the body’s immune response. The company is developing the agent as a “non patient-specific, off-the-shelf pharmaceutical product,” it said in a statement.