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The FDA Approves First Vaccine for Prostate Cancer

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the 93,000 vaccine, Provenge, making it the first vaccine for prostate cancer--or any cancer for that matter. It should be noted that Provenge doesn't prevent or cure cancer, unlike the polio shot or the recently approved vaccines that block infection with viruses that cause most cervical tumors. Studies have shown, however that men with advanced prostate cancer live four months longer given the vaccine compared to men given placebo shots. In case you're keeping track at home, that's $23,250 for each extra month.

Like those drug commercials you see, Provenge does come with potential side effects, such as fevers, chills and headaches. Conversely, chemo can cause its own side effects, such as fatigue, loss of appetite and dangerous infections. This article from USA Today explains how the drug works:
Provenge works in a unique way. The series of three shots are custom-made, using a patient's own cells, and are designed to train the immune system to recognize and kill malignant cells, Kantoff says. Although the immune system naturally destroys many abnormal cells and foreign invaders, such as viruses, cancers appear to have an unusual ability to evade detection.
This is a great achievement and the culmination of decades of research into harnessing the immune system to fight tumors. Let's all hope that many more breakthroughs are just around the corner.

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