FOX 47 - Health News

MADISON (WMSN) -- Oncologists may soon have another weapon in their arsenal against prostate cancer.

The Food and Drug Administration is on the verge of approving a new cancer vaccine.

In clinical trials, the vaccine helped prostate cancer patients live longer without the harsh side effects of chemo and radiation.

Doctors are quick to point out it's a vaccine only in name -- it's not preventative, it's not a cure -- but it may offer some hope.

Seattle-based Dendreon Corp. has developed a new cancer treatment -- a revolutionary cancer vaccine.

During treatment, doctors draw blood from a cancer patient, train the white blood cells to attack cancer cells, and inject them back into the body.

"This is a therapy targeting the immune system and then has your immune system target the cancer," said Dr. George Wilding, director of the UW Carbon Cancer Center.

Dr. Wilding says the UW served as one of the clinical trial locations for the vaccine. He says, unlike chemo, the vaccine does not destroy good cells in the body.

"This is entirely different that what has been used before," he said.

Studies show prostate cancer patients who took the vaccine lived, on average 4.5 months longer. Some men gained an extra two or three years of life.

"This would be a way to give hope to those people for whom other treatment options either wouldn't work or had not resulted in a cure," said Dr. D. Brooke Johnson, a urologist with Dean Health & St. Mary's Hospital.

Dr. Johnson says the vaccine is promising, but for most patients, it won't replace surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. At least, he says, it's another option.

"It's a little too early to say if this will have long-term benefits for the general population with prostate cancer," he said.

So far, the only side effects of the vaccine are fevers and chills experienced by a few patients.

Doctors hope research with this prostate cancer vaccine will eventually help create vaccines for many kinds of cancers.

Prostate cancer kills about 30,000 men in United States every year.

Prostate Cancer Vaccine

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