USA Today story gives good context on Provenge prostate CA "vaccine"

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Liz Szabo fits several important reminders into her story about the FDA’s approval of Provenge for prostate cancer. For example:

• Benefits: the vaccine helped men with advanced prostate cancer live four months longer than men given placebo shots.

• Harms: one in four Provenge patients had a serious side effect, with 3.5% suffering a stroke, compared to 2.6% of those on placebo.

• Uncertainties: “doctors still have many questions about the vaccine”

• Cost: “A February analysis by J.P. Morgan estimates that Provenge could cost closer to $70,000 to $100,000 … That could put the drug out of reach even for patients with insurance, as some plans require patients to pay 20% of their medication costs.”

There is no question this is a significant advance in introducing a new method of targeted cancer therapy, but some of the stories we’ve seen are caught up in hyperbolic language like “breakthrough” and “landmark. ” More stories should emphasize the life-extending benefit of four months at a time when Szabo reminds us:

‘A growing number of health economists and patient advocates have expressed concern about the skyrocketing cost of cancer drugs. Many health plans are raising out-of-pocket costs to help cover these expenses, research shows.”

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Comments (4)

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Greg Pawelski

April 30, 2010 at 2:15 pm

American Cancer Society’s Dr. Len Lichtenfeld has some interesting perspectives about the Provenge vaccine cancer drug. The point about it being a vaccine and not so much a targeted drug. The treatment will only be available for men whose disease has progressed despite hormone treatments, and the men have to either be free of symptoms or have only minimal symptoms at the time of treatment.


November 7, 2011 at 8:28 am

You seem to only want to show part of the USA Today article. You pull out:
” one in four Provenge patients had a serious side effect, with 3.5% suffering a stroke, compared to 2.6% of those on placebo. ”
Maybe you would have been more even handed in your reporting by including more of the paragraph:
“Many men on Provenge developed mild symptoms, such as fevers, chills and headaches. One in four patients had a serious side effect, whether they took Provenge or a placebo, with 3.5% suffering a stroke, compared with 2.6% of those on placebo, according to the FDA. Chemo can cause many serious side effects, such as fatigue, loss of appetite and dangerous infections.”
or maybe even-handed reporting is NOT what you are about!