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Health

Prostate cancer vaccine now available at Buffalo hospital

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The Roswell Park Cancer Institute is now offering the first-ever vaccine to treat cancer.

But the drug – Provenge – isn’t for everyone. Only men with advanced prostate cancer can receive the treatment, and only after a lengthy approval process by hospital officials. 

How it works
Provenge isn't a traditional vaccine.  Doctors take blood from a patient and purify it to find cells that are naturally immune. Using those cells, and the Provenge formula, Roswell doctors can craft a customized vaccine for each cancer patient.

“In this case you actually have to take a patient’s own material, send it to a central distribution place, have it manipulated and then receive it back, so it’s a much more complicated implementation process,” says Donald Trump, Roswell President and CEO.

While FDA has recognized the drug’s benefit, Trump says the overall results are modest.

“It’s far from the magic bullet or the cure-all. But there’s no doubt, those men that get this vaccine live longer than those men that didn’t get the vaccine,” Trump says.

It's also not a cheap cure.  According to Courtney Hutchison at ABC News, the price tag for a longer life can be pretty steep:

With the advent of Provenge, the first-ever vaccine cancer treatment, that tag has been set at about $23,000 per month of life gained -- $93,000 in total for a treatment that extends life, on average, by four months.

Roswell Park will stage further clinical trials to observe how the vaccine works with other treatments. Only a handful of hospitals are licensed to administer the vaccine.