Could a cancer vaccine be possible in the future?
Over several decades, cancer vaccines
have emerged as a form of immunotherapy, a treatment approach that stimulates or restores the body’s own immune system to either help prevent cancer from developing or help treat an existing cancer.
The HPV vaccine
is among the best-known cancer preventive vaccines. It helps prevent human papillomavirus infections. Certain HPV infections are associated with cervix, vagina, vulva, penis, anus, rectum, and head and neck cancers.
As for cancer treatment vaccines, the first to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States is Provenge or sipuleucel-T
, which harnesses a patient’s own immune system to attack cancer cells. The vaccine is approved for use in some men with prostate cancer.
“Whether used for prevention of infectious diseases or for prevention and treatment of cancer, vaccines work by similar mechanisms: They teach the immune system how to recognize the infectious pathogen or the cancer cell as something foreign that needs to be eliminated,” said Dr. Dmitriy Zamarin, a cancer immunologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
in New York who researches vaccines.
“In the case of cancer, various vaccine strategies teach the immune system to recognize a protein, also known as antigen, or a part of a protein that is present on the surface of cancer cells but not normal cells,” he said. “By targeting these proteins, the immune system can specifically eliminate cancer cells while leaving normal cells intact.”
Here’s a look at the past successes and failures of cancer vaccine research, and where the future of research is heading.
Read on: Can you vaccinate yourself against cancer? – CNN