Jun 26, 2023
By Jane Brown
The next big advance in cancer treatment could be a vaccine.
After decades of limited success, scientists say research has reached a turning point, with many predicting more vaccines will be out in five years.
These aren’t traditional vaccines that prevent disease, but shots to shrink tumors and stop cancer from coming back. Targets for these experimental treatments include breast and lung cancer, with gains reported this year for deadly skin cancer melanoma and pancreatic cancer.
“We’re getting something to work. Now we need to get it to work better,” said Dr. James Gulley, who helps lead a center at the National Cancer Institute that develops immune therapies, including cancer treatment vaccines.
More than ever, scientists understand how cancer hides from the body’s immune system. Cancer vaccines, like other immunotherapies, boost the immune system to find and kill cancer cells. And some new ones use mRNA, which was developed for cancer but first used for COVID-19 vaccines.
Progress on treatment vaccines has been challenging. The first, Provenge, was approved in the U.S. in 2010 to treat prostate cancer that had spread. It requires processing a patient’s own immune cells in a lab and giving them back through IV. There are also treatment vaccines for early bladder cancer and advanced melanoma.
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