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FDA Approves Prostate Cancer Vaccine

Illustration for article titled FDA Approves Prostate Cancer Vaccine

Yesterday, the FDA approved a drug called Provenge. It trains the body's immune system to fight off advanced prostate cancer. It's also the first proof we have that immunotherapy works in the fight against the disease.

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Provenge from Dendreon isn't a preventative vaccine; it won't stave off illness. It is, though, an innovative way to apply traditional vaccine technology to post-diagnosis treatment. It's an approach with far fewer harsh side-effects than chemotherapy, and in clinical trials it extended the lives of patients by about four months compared to a placebo group.

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There are some unfortunate limitations: Provenge has been approved only for a specific subset of "men whose cancer has spread in the body and for whom the hormone-deprivation drugs no longer work but who still have minimal symptoms, or none at all." Dendreon's also only been able to produce enough vaccine for 2,000 patients this year, and those who can get Provenge will have to pay out $93,000 for a full three-shot course of treatment.

What's most important, though, are the broader implications: We know, now, that immunotherapy can work in cancer treatment. It's only a matter of time before its scope and effectiveness have as broad a reach as the disease itself. [NY Times]

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DISCUSSION

Wait... am I missing something here? The placebo group? Did people seriously die thinking they were getting some miracle cure for their cancer?

And are we seriously supposed to pay $93,000 for something humans have been pumping millions upon millions of donated dollars into researching?

On top of that, I'm sorry... maybe I'm different than everyone else, but having a very solid history of cancer on my father's side, and watching it slowly rot him away until he was dead, I'm set on the idea that if I don't have much of a chance of living if diagnosed, I'd rather die quicker and get it over with than to extend the agony another 4 months AND put whatever family I might have through the crippling, crippling debt. Screw that. I lived that. Cure or nothing.