Vaccines Against Cancer: An Increasingly Closer Reality

In Recent Years, Various Advances have been Made in the Fight Against Cancer. Vaccines are Presented as a Possibility to Fight this Disease. We tell you the Advances in this Regard and How they Would Work.

person receiving a vaccine

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LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Ramírez Ramos

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Leer en español: Vacunas contra el cáncer: una realidad cada vez más cercana

In the last week, some of the most encouraging news for the medical world was that scientists at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard University managed to transform cancer cells into anticancer agents. This therapeutic approach that they have developed would not only eliminate tumors, but also strengthen the immune system. In this way, long-term immunity could be induced to prevent the reappearance of cancer in the patient.

Thus, the research team has managed to develop a double action vaccine against cancer that seems to be very promising. In fact, the vaccine was successfully tested in mice. The results are published in the Science Translational Medicine Journal. However, further trials and research are needed for this approach to become a reality in cancer treatment. "Cancer vaccines are an active area of research for many laboratories, but the approach Shah and his colleagues have taken is different. Instead of using inactivated tumor cells, the team reuses live tumor cells, which possess an unusual characteristic", says Harvard University in a statement.

Advances in the development of cancer vaccines

Vaccines we get usually help protect us from disease. Thus, vaccines help the immune system to identify and destroy diseases, both to prevent their spread and to give an effective response. During the last few years, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been more aware of its importance. First, because of how vaccines were developed to treat the coronavirus and its importance in ending the pandemic. On the other hand, due to the health crises that are being experienced in multiple countries, due to the delay in vaccination due to quarantines that has led to the resurgence of outbreaks of measles or polio.

However, most of the vaccines that have been developed for cancer work differently because they seek to serve as therapies to treat people who have already developed the disease. Although the advances are still incipient in the area, several scientific centers and laboratories work in them. "Cancer vaccines can kill cancer cells that might have survived other treatments, stop the tumor from growing or spreading, or stop the cancer from coming back," National Geographic notes.

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Cancer Vaccines Approved

According to the American Cancer Society, there are two types of approved cancer vaccines that work by helping to boost the body's immune response against cancer cells. It is about Sipuleucel-T (Provenge) "this drug is used to treat advanced prostate cancer that hormone therapy no longer helps," says the aforementioned institution. Likewise, in cases of skin cancer with advanced melanoma, the vaccine Talimogene laherparepvec (T-VEC) is usually used. "It is made from a herpes virus that has been altered in the laboratory to produce a substance that the body normally produces, called a cytokine," the association explains. This substance stimulates the patient's immune system.

Vaccine against HPV and hepatitis and their effects on the development of cancer

It could be said that the most successful vaccine, related to the fight against cancer, is that of the Human Papilloma Virus. Although it does not specifically attack cancer, it does prevent the sexually transmitted infection that causes most cases of cervical cancer. In fact, for the same reason, it would also help prevent vaginal and vulvar cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests the application of this vaccine starting at age 9 in boys and girls. However, it can also be applied to older people, although its effect decreases as they could have had contact with the virus. On the other hand, the vaccine against the hepatitis B virus (HBV) could help prevent the appearance of liver cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

The complicated thing about the development of cancer vaccines is that most, such as breast, colorectal, prostate or lung cancer, are not induced by infections. Therefore, you cannot develop your vaccine to attack a virus.

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