When $93,000 Only Buys You 4 Months to Live…

prostate cancer vaccine, provengeThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a first vaccine to treat prostate cancer. The price tag? $93,000.

Of course, this “vaccine”, Provenge, doesn't actually prevent cancer. It also doesn't cure cancer. So what does it do?

According to USA Today:

“... studies show that the vaccine does help men with advanced prostate cancer live four months longer ... Many men on Provenge developed mild symptoms, such as fevers, chills and headaches. One in four patients had a serious side effect ... with 3.5 percent suffering a stroke ...”

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Well, we are finally starting to see the transition. Remember that patents on many blockbuster drugs are expiring, and the tens of billions of dollars of revenue they generated are being lost. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find patented replacements for them, so the drug companies are shifting their focus to vaccines.

Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in American men, affecting about one in six men at some point in their life. It’s also the second leading cause of cancer death in men.

However, as dire as that sounds, the 5-year relative survival rate of all men with prostate cancer is, remarkably, 100 percent, and the relative survival rate at 10 years is 91 percent, according to the American Cancer Society. Which makes you wonder whether or not Provenge, the so-called “cancer vaccine” that might extend your life as little as four months, is really worth a price tag of $93,000...

Cost of Cancer Treatments are Skyrocketing, But What are they Really Worth?

Naturally, many will say that you can’t put a price tag on life, no matter how short, but what I’m questioning is not someone’s urge to live as long as possible, but rather it’s a question of what constitutes a successful cancer treatment worthy of such an exorbitant price.

To me, it seems more like a last ditch effort to squeeze every last penny out of a dying man and his family, without offering any significant hope of prolonged life in return.

In fact, after paying $93,000 for this vaccine, you’re also accepting the possibility of dying sooner, rather than later, as one of its more dangerous side effects include an increased risk of stroke.

According to a recent article in the US Today, the cost of cancer treatment has doubled in the last two decades, from just under $25 billion annually in 1987, to more than $48 billion a year during 2001-2005 (amounts calculated with inflation to reflect value of dollar in 2007).

And the trend shows no sign of reversing. In fact, several new, high-priced cancer treatments have been released in the past five years. But none of them offer any significant hope for a longer life, let alone a cure.

So, what’s missing from this equation?

A focus on prevention, for one, which I’ll go over below.

Prevention costs a tiny fraction of treatment, so a well-directed focus on preventive strategies would save multiple billions of dollars in health care costs each year once cancer prevalence is reduced.

But more important than billions of dollars, it would save the unnecessary pain and suffering that so many have to needlessly endure.

It would also save thousands of families from financial ruin, which is one of the hidden side effects of the high cost of cancer treatment.

According to a 2006 survey conducted by USA Today, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, 25 percent of cancer patients or their families said they used up all or most of their personal savings to pay for treatment!

Additionally medical bills are the number one reason that people declare bankruptcy in the US.. This trend is also getting more critical, as rising health care costs has led many health care plans to raise your out-of-pocket costs.

  • So what’s the real VALUE of this new cancer vaccine in light of all these facts?
  • Does it really make sense?
  • Is it a wise use of resources?

So far, the three studies conducted on this vaccine show that it can help men with advanced prostate cancer live about four months longer. However, exactly how it keeps you alive longer is still unclear and test results have yet to explain the mechanics of it.

The vaccine is “designed to train your immune system to recognize and kill malignant cells.” But previous studies of the vaccine showed that even though patients lived slightly longer, the vaccine did NOT actually shrink their tumors.

A second study showed nearly identical results, indicating that this is clearly not a cure as it does not affect tumor size.

I find it tragically amusing that a drug that cannot prevent anything, cannot actually treat anything, and cannot cure anything, is allowed and recommended to be used as a main line of defense – and at such an unreasonable price at that.

Despite this highly questionable performance, the FDA approved the vaccine, Provenge, as a cancer treatment, and its makers are surely dancing all the way to the bank.

According to USA Today, the vaccine is estimated to bring in $1.5 billion in annual sales.

Meanwhile, one of the safest, least expensive cancer-prevention and treatment support available is largely ignored, namely nutrition.

In fact, nutritional therapies may be more or less ESSENTIAL for successful avoidance and/or treatment of prostate cancer, and yet few patients ever get this information.

One of the Most Potent Cancer Fighters – Vitamin D!

One specific treatment for prostate cancer that has been brought to the research forefront is vitamin D from sunshine exposure.

According to a study published last year, men with higher levels of vitamin D in their blood were seven times LESS likely to die from prostate cancer than those with lower amounts.

Vitamin D’s impact on your cancer risk is becoming increasingly well-documented, and there are now well over 800 scientific studies confirming the link between vitamin D deficiency and multiple types of cancers, including prostate cancer.

Personally, I believe one of the most powerful ways you can improve your health status is by optimizing your vitamin D levels. For more information on how to do this, please review this previous article. Overall, getting a safe amount of sun exposure on a regular basis, or taking an oral vitamin D3 supplement could reduce your risk of ALL cancers by at least 50 percent!

There’s no drug or vaccine on the market that can boast that kind of cancer protection.

As opposed to this cancer vaccine, the how’s of vitamin D’s protective effects are becoming well understood. For example, we now know that vitamin D acts as a deterrent against cancer development in several ways, including:

  • Increasing the self-destruction of mutated cells (which, if allowed to replicate, could lead to cancer)
  • Reducing the spread and reproduction of cancer cells
  • Causing cells to become differentiated (cancer cells often lack differentiation)
  • Reducing the growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing ones, which is a step in the transition of dormant tumors turning cancerous

And for those who already have cancer, I believe it is virtually criminal malpractice, or at least gross medical negligence, to not optimize vitamin D levels when treating someone with this disease. According to vitamin D expert Dr. William Grant:

“From a scientific point of view, vitamin D reduces the risk of developing many types of cancer and increases survival once cancer reaches the detectable stage.”

Another “Forgotten Vitamin” that May Be Crucial for Cancer Reduction and Health

Vitamin K2 has also been found to offer significant protection against prostate cancer. One 2008 study by the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) found that increased intake of vitamin K2 may reduce your risk of prostate cancer by 35 percent.

Interestingly, the potential benefits of vitamin K2 were most pronounced for advanced prostate cancer.

Vitamin K has also been found beneficial in the fight against other kinds of cancer, including liver, colon, stomach, nasopharynx, and oral cancer, and some studies have even suggested vitamin K may be used therapeutically in the treatment of patients with lung cancer, liver cancer, and leukemia.

Although I don’t typically recommend adding extra supplements to your diet, vitamin K is one of the few supplements you should seriously consider because many people don’t get nearly enough of it on a daily basis through the foods they eat.

Although the exact dosing is yet to be determined, one vitamin K expert, Dr. Cees Vermeer, recommends between 45 mcg and 185 mcg daily for adults. You must use caution on the higher doses if you take anticoagulants, but if you are generally healthy and not on these types of medications, I suggest 150 mcg daily.

Please note that if you’ve experienced stroke, cardiac arrest, or are prone to blood clotting, do not take vitamin K without consulting your physician first.

Another important note is that vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means that dietary fat is necessary for its absorption.

One easy way to do this is to mix liquid vitamin K drops with a high quality, animal-based omega-3 source like krill oil. This will ensure that the vitamin K is well-absorbed by your body. Alternatively, you could add it to any other food that contains healthy fat.

Additional Dietary Recommendations for Prostate Cancer Prevention

Also keep in mind that your diet can either help or hinder cancer development or progression. Eating higher amounts of vegetables and fruit, and avoiding high energy intake, excessive meat, and excessive fdairy products and calcium may be helpful for preventing prostate cancer, and in treating patients already diagnosed with it.

One 2009 study identified the following foods as being particularly beneficial against prostate cancer:

  • Tomatoes
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Green tea
  • Vitamin E
  • Alkalinize your system with loads of raw foods 

Consumption of highly processed or charcoaled meats, dairy products, and fats correlated with an increased risk for prostate cancer and should therefore be avoided.

For a list of 14 additional guidelines and strategies to help avoid and treat both prostate- and breast cancer, please see this previous article.

+ Sources and References