Vaccines take aim at some cancers

November 22, 2010 BACKGROUND: There are two broad types of cancer vaccines: preventive and treatment. Preventive vaccines intend to prevent cancer from developing in healthy people and treatment vaccines are intended to treat an existing cancer by strengthening the body's natural defenses against cancer. Cancer treatment vaccines are designed to treat cancer by stimulating the immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. Effective cancer treatment vaccines are difficult to develop because some cancers can escape detection by the immune system or weaken natural immune responses against cancer cells. According to the National Cancer Institute, several studies have suggested that cancer treatment vaccines may be most effective when given in combination with other forms of cancer therapy.

EFFECTIVENESS: In some clinical trials, cancer treatment vaccines have appeared to increase the effectiveness of other cancer therapies. Researchers are also designing clinical trials to answer questions such as whether a specific cancer treatment vaccine works best when it is administered before chemotherapy, after chemotherapy, or at the same time as chemotherapy. (SOURCE: National Cancer Institute)

SIDE EFFECTS: The side effects of cancer vaccines vary among patients and according to the type of vaccine being used. Most of the side effects reported thus far have been inflammation at the site of the vaccine injection, pain, swelling, warming of the skin, itchiness, and occasionally a rash. People sometimes experience flu-like symptoms after receiving a cancer vaccine, including fever, chills, weakness, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, muscle ache, fatigue, headache, and occasional breathing difficulties. Blood pressure may also be affected. (SOURCE: National Cancer Institute)

THE FUTURE: Perhaps the most promising avenue of cancer vaccine research is aimed at better understanding the basic biology underlying how immune system cells and cancer cells interact. New technologies are being created as part of this effort. For example, a new type of imaging technology allows researchers to observe killer T cells (a type of immune cell that can attack foreign cells, cancer cells, and cells infected with a virus) and cancer cells interacting inside the body. (SOURCE: Immunological Reviews 2008)


Lung Cancer Vaccine
Roper St. Francis Healthcare
Physicians Referral Line
Charleston, SC
(843) 402-CARE

Breast Cancer Vaccine
Monina Wagner
Media Relations Manager
Cleveland Clinic
Cleveland, OH
(216) 444-2412

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