the number one tweet on twitter today in regards to prostate cancer? Provenge-the concept of the future for all cancers? Tuberculosis and bladder cancer-do you know the connection?

Urologists treat recurrent bladder cancer by instilling into the bladder live tuberculosis (BCG). The way this works is that the body produces cells to fight the BCG and in the process the cells fight the bladder cancer. We use it all the time, it is a type of immunotherapy and has made a difference in how patients do with certain types of bladder cancer. So why all the fuss about Provenge? The studies showed an increase in survival of four months in late stage prostate cancer patients. That is not all that impressive particularly if you add that they are saying that the drug will cost 50,000- 75,000 dollars. But here’s the thing, the implications are huge and have implications into other cancers. A treatment of the future. How does it work? (This is very simplistic explanation as I am not overly familiar with this drug.) Blood is drawn from the prostate cancer patient, sent to the drug company where it is exposed to prostate cancer cells and is in turn altered in response to the cancer and now invigorated to fight cancer cells. The “new” blood is sent back and put back into the original patient and now sets in motion the process of attacking the patient’s cancer cells. Hence a “vaccine.” A flu shot gives you a small amount of the flu and your body responds to that and in turn fights the flu.

I am listening to the history of america and am now at the point that the power of  nuclear fission and its implications were first realized. That was 1940 or so, and you know where we are now in that regard. This Provenge could be the same, refined to be more effective in prostate patients and adjusted to be used  for other cancers. I think this is big stuff, not so much for now (in my opinion, obviously four months of quality time in a loved one with this disease is priceless) but in the direction this aspect of cancer treatment will lead.

Currently most of the focus of treatment of the late stage prostate cancer patient has to do with altering the male hormones in the patient. This is not a curative maneuver but only one that postpones the disease. Provenge represents a totally different concept and treatment angle that might lead to prevention or better yet cure.

Could Twitter become the barometer of medical news? Maybe so.

FDA May Approve Possible Prostate Cancer Vaccine

(CBS) Researchers have discovered a potential break through in combating prostate cancer — a vaccine so innovative that it may change the future of cancer treatment.

A vaccine named Provenge may get Food and Drug Administration approval as early as this week. The drug showed promise in prolonging life for men battling a deadly cancer that affects over 200,000 men a year and kills about 27,000.

CBS Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton shared details about the test with “Early Show” co-anchor Harry Smith.

According to Ashton, the study looked at over 500 men with an advanced form of prostate cancer. Half of them were treated with a placebo, the other half treated with this vaccine.

“Those treated with the vaccine had what was found to be a significantly increased life expectancy or survival,” she explained. “However, that was four months. So it took them average from 22 months survival to 26 months survival.”

Special Section: Dr. Jennifer Ashton Video Series: Dr. Ashton’s Health and Wellness

This vaccine is not a typical preventative vaccine, like the cervical cancer vaccine; instead, it treats patients with an advanced form of prostate cancer.

Ashton says this form of treatment is different and “uses the patient’s own blood cells to trick the tumor cells in to stimulating the body’s own immune system to attack that tumor.”

She said these are personalized vaccines, so it’s not one size or one-size fits all. She said that makes the tumor more complicated and expensive to make, but the patient will reap the benefits in treatment.

“The idea is that it will only destroy the tumor and not spread the widespread toxicity and harm that other things like chemotherapy and radiation can do.”

The personalized vaccine comes with a hefty price tag. It ranges from $50,000 to $75,000.

When it comes to treating cancer, there is always risk versus benefit to consider. Traditionally, prostate cancer can be treated with chemotherapy, surgery or radiation therapy — all which have major risks.

“At this point, the risks to this vaccine seem to be that the vaccine just doesn’t work,” she said. “So the risk profile seems to be more advantageous than the other traditional forms of therapy.

“But we have to remember prostate cancer very similar to other cancers, not all prostate cancer needs treatment. Some are so slow-growing that the treatments actually will kill you faster than the disease itself.”

Oftentimes, patients who are 70 or older and are in the advanced stages of prostate cancer, the doctor says whatever we do will be worse than you just letting it run its course, Smith points out. But for younger men who have an advanced form of prostate cancer the vaccine could really make a difference.

So, does this complicate or does it make easier for a patient to choose a course of action?

“I think in some sense this does cloud the waters,” Ashton said. “The exciting thing about this vaccine, is this is thought to be by many cancer experts as the future in cancer treatment. Personalized treatment and therapy that targets only the tumor, and not the rest of the body. So we’re going to have to wait and see.”

(© MMX, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)


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