"Cancer vaccines are an idea whose time has come."
November 22, 2022 7:16 AM   Subscribe

"Although 5 decades of research have yielded many failures, [cancer] vaccines are now positioned for success" While there are currently only a few vaccines being used to treat cancer (as opposed to preventing it), "knowledge gained from [COVID-19] trials and versatile therapeutic potential of the mRNA can be applied for the development of vaccine for the infectious diseases and cancer." There are many cancer vaccines currently in clinical trials (find one) and receiving research grants.

The vaccines under development work in different ways from implantable sponges which can target tumors to DNA vaccines which target the DNA within the body's proteins.

Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci, who co-founded BioNTech, the company which helped create the Pfizer COVID vaccine, believe that cancer vaccines will be available "before 2030."
posted by jessamyn (11 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
It's a really exciting time to work in cancer medicine - my center has a vaccine study that targets HER2+ breast cancer in patients that have completed local therapy (surgery +/- radiation) and chemotherapy. Between the mRNA work, continued research in molecular targets and precision medicine, and immunotherapy, it feels like there is a lot of new energy and enthusiasm.

But I will be the usual wet blanket to remind folks that it takes years in most cases to know whether or not this is something that will work, and how well, and in whom.
posted by honeybee413 at 7:27 AM on November 22 [12 favorites]

I won't post it because it's behind a paywall, but I was just reading yesterday a piece from a writer who had spent 20+ years on chemo--she had hormone-sensitive breast cancer, and so, from a survivability standpoint, kind of lucked out in her timing; as soon as one agent stopped working, a new one was available. But she'd grown absolutely exhausted from treatment after treatment. Now she is in a trial for a vaccine, and for the first time, her cancer is in retreat. It's not a perfect cure by any means--the cancer is still there, and for some of the patients in the study, their cancers continue to progress--but there is, as this FPP suggests, a lot of reason for hope.

I remember an FPP from years ago, I won't be able to find it now, but it was about oncology students coming to grips with the limits of their specialty, and the knowledge that theirs was really an impossible profession. I wonder what it must be like to be one of those students now, with these new trials showing a path forward.
posted by mittens at 7:33 AM on November 22 [10 favorites]

anyone versed in this stuff know if there's anything in the works for osteosarcoma?
posted by kokaku at 7:48 AM on November 22

Kokaku: Bunch of studies on clinicaltrials.gov (link to search here) but not always easy to see what the tech behind the vaccine is without digging deeper.
posted by honeybee413 at 7:54 AM on November 22

Kokaku - my dog is getting a "vaccine" for her osteosarcoma. Today is her first dose in fact! Made from the tumor. It's still in trial for animals, but the intent is to go into humans eventually as I understand. The company is Torigen.
posted by dpx.mfx at 8:57 AM on November 22 [7 favorites]

The HPV vaccine works against cervical cancer by immunizing against the human papillomavirus.
This vaccine can prevent most cases of cervical cancer if the vaccine is given before girls or women are exposed to the virus. This vaccine can also prevent vaginal and vulvar cancer. In addition, the vaccine can prevent genital warts, anal cancers, and mouth, throat, head and neck cancers in women and men.

In theory, vaccinating boys against the types of HPV associated with cervical cancer might also help protect girls from the virus by possibly decreasing transmission.
posted by Thella at 11:53 AM on November 22 [4 favorites]

The HPV vaccine works against cervical cancer by immunizing against the human papillomavirus.

That's prevention not treatment. Which is still great and important but treatment is a much bigger deal as much of population missed the opportunity, either because of age or because their parents made bad decisions for them.

I'm still gobsmacked many people don't vaccinate their kids against cervical and throat cancers caused by HPV but it has become apparent we live in spectacularly dumb times. I would not be surprised if we develop cancer cures and people refuse them.
posted by srboisvert at 1:38 PM on November 22 [3 favorites]

That's prevention not treatment

Yes? I'm not sure your point. The original article is about cancer vaccines.
posted by Thella at 6:09 PM on November 22 [2 favorites]

Can't get here soon enough. I know we focus a lot of our efforts on curing cancers that have already progressed to some extent and that's extremely important, but it certainly seems like nipping it in the bud early before mutation upon mutation has stacked up and tumors have developed local environments hostile to treatments and the immune system has to be better, and I'm hopeful this is a way to do that. Such a hard thing to do trials for though, you have to catch it early enough and then a bunch of people have to be willing to forgo standard treatment to compare effectiveness.
posted by jason_steakums at 7:10 AM on November 23 [2 favorites]

That's prevention not treatment

Yes? I'm not sure your point. The original article is about cancer vaccines.

Apparently we are getting different articles because the one I read seemed like it was about treating existing cancer by using a vaccine to induce a immune response to existing cancer rather than pre-empting the existence of the cancer.
posted by srboisvert at 6:30 PM on November 23

rather than pre-empting the existence of the cancer.
Yes, of course {Thella rtfa}, I see your point. Overall, these two aspects are related insofar as their differences pivot on the point in time where a growth stimulus has no off-switch. Cancers grow from our own flesh and exist of our flesh (and cells). The mechanism that stops an immune response to a HPV growth, is the same mechanism that stops an ongoing growth, even though the chemistry differs.
posted by Thella at 11:20 PM on November 23

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