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Community Continues To Help Student With Rare Cancer

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- The South Florida community is coming together to help a 23-year old student denied coverage for his cancer treatment.

Manny Alvarez was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called alveolar soft part sarcoma in 2014.

To help pay for his treatments, several businesses at Riviera Plaza shopping mall are donating a portion of all their sales on Saturday to the Manny Alvarez foundation.

Alvarez started his first round of treatment on Wednesday at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.

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The funds for the first round were raised using a funding website account set up by his friends.

As of Saturday, they had raised almost $160,000 for his treatment.

Alvarez's alma mater, Christopher Columbus Senior High School, is also reaching out to alumni for help. 

Alvarez's oncologist & sarcoma specialist Dr. Breelyn Wilky has said his cancer is so rare, there is no standard treatment but they have found a drug combination that kills tumor cells. Now they want to see if that drug combination will also shrink the tumors throughout his body.

Meantime, Alvarez's insurance company, Florida Blue, says it won't pay for the $266,000 treatment.

"I provided them with the data. Unfortunately because these drugs are not approved for sarcoma they were unable to provide coverage," said Dr. Wilky. 

In a statement released this week Florida Blue said in part, "At times, our members and/or their physicians inquire about the use of experimental drugs or drugs that have not been adequately tested and approved for a particular use.  Florida Blue's team of physicians conducts a thorough review of the proposed treatment. Based on their medical expertise and scientific evidence on the effectiveness of the treatment, they either approve or deny the request." 

Dr. Wilky and Alvarez's family have appealed the decision.

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