First cancer vaccine approved for public use

As Carl Sagan said, “science delivers the goods.” Or does it?

The FDA has approved a new prostate cancer vaccine. Unfortunately, it’s amazing as I hoped:

Provenge, made by Dendreon of Seattle, does not prevent or cure prostate cancer, which killed 27,000 men in the US last year and more than 10,000 in the UK in 2008. Rather, in its largest study yet, the therapy extended the lives of 512 people with aggressive prostate tumours by four months, compared with patients who did not receive it.

Four months? That’s it? That’s all it does? The one thing I demand of a prostate cancer vaccine is that I and future generations don’t have to ever get a prostate exam. Is that too much to ask? I don’t think so.

But I guess it’s not all underwhelming:

Though modest, the latest result shows that harnessing the immune system is a viable way to fight cancer. Oncologist Philip Kantoff at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston led the trial. He expects similar approaches to other cancers, such as melanoma, kidney cancer and lymphoma, to be approved in five to 10 years and that tweaks to Provenge will see it further extend people’s lives.


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