Advances in Cancer Vaccines

Advances in Cancer Vaccines

Researchers currently are working on cancer vaccines designed to offer personalized treatment to each patient... and give hope to all.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, nearly half of all Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer and a quarter of them will die of complications from the disease.

Vaccination helps to prevent viral infections and has helped wipe out several illnesses. In fact, preventing certain viral infections can also prevent some forms of cancer.

For years now, researchers have been developing therapeutic vaccines, which are different from preventive vaccines, in that they are designed to attack the cancer.

Here’s a quick rundown of cancer vaccines.

Vaccination cancer

Preventive Vaccines

Preventive (prophylactic) vaccines use antigens or inactive viruses to trigger the immune system into releasing antibodies.

Examples include vaccines for:

  • Measles
  • Tetanus
  • Polio
  • COVID-19

They can also be used to prevent viral infections that could lead to or cause cancer.

  • Vaccines that protect against Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, a virus that causes genital cancers as well as mouth and throat cancer.
  • Vaccines that protect against Hepatitis B to reduce the risk of developing liver cancer.

Therapeutic Cancer Vaccines

These are vaccines designed to fight cancer once it is diagnosed.

Such vaccines can be derived from cancer cells, parts of cancer cells or antigens (synthetic peptides), designed to trigger an immune response to identify and attack cancer cells.

Therapeutic vaccines may:

  • Prevent the cancer from spreading
  • Prevent the cancer from coming back
  • Destroy any cancer cells remaining after treatment

Viruses 101

Researchers in Quebec are currently developing vaccines that use oncolytic viruses, i.e., viruses that kill cancer but that are otherwise harmless.

In the vaccine, the oncolytic virus will be combined with antigens in the hope that this will also trigger an immune system response (antibodies).

Biopsies will be used to identify antigens and ultimately, personalize vaccines to each patient.

This means that the cancer will be attacked by both the oncolytic virus and the person’s antibodies, sparing healthy cells.

Plus, since these viruses don’t have to be genetically modified, it’s simply a matter of matching the virus to the cancer. This should initiate a quick, personalized response at a lesser cost, regardless of the cancer.

Unfortunately, mutations—an infinite number of them—continue to pose a problem that researchers are desperately trying to solve.

Do you have questions? Speak to your doctor. And never lose hope.