Is there really hope for a vaccine against cancer?

As recently reported in December 19, 2011 edition of Newsweek, there may be a vaccine against cancer. A University of Washington researcher has been working with patient in a clinical trial with breast cancer injecting a vaccine that allows a patients immune system to mount an attack against the vaccine as it attaches to the surface of tumor cells, calling in specific white blood cells called  T cells to destroy the cancer cells.  But this isn’t the first cancer vaccine.  In 2010, the FDA approved the first tumor vaccine, Provenge for the treatment of prostate cancer.  And vaccines are being tested for brain and pancreatic cancer as well as Chronic lymphocytic leukemia. 

Also, the fundamental difference between how a vaccine works vs chemotherapy or radiation is that a vaccine  gives the body the tools to fight the cancer cells by teaching the T cell lymphocytes to recognize and fight these cells wherever they are; chemotherapy simply destroys cancer cells in tissue.  but cancer cells are smart and they can transform into something that chemotherapy drugs no longer work against; that’s how a patient can go into remission and then the cancer suddenly returns fast and furiously with no warning, many times with fatal consequences the secound round through.  What if the body could recognize this second wave of cancer cells returning because the T cells have a good enough training and memory to recognize and kill any counter attack as it tries to mount a second attack?  This is the promise that vaccines hope to offer.  Of course they are still experimental and early in their development but they are showing surprising results that hold great promise.

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