Cancer Vaccine: From Pandemic the Key to Defeat Tumors

By Rosalba Mancuso:

Can cancer vaccine be universal? Or, rather, can this innovative treatment be suitable to treat any types of cancer? Of course, it would be wonderful we could prevent or defeat cancer through a simple injection. This guide is born just for that! Namely: to give a reliable answer to the just mentioned question. First, we must understand what is a cancer vaccine and what is the difference with the classical vaccine to fight infectious diseases. To discover more, keep reading.

Cancer Vaccines: How They Work?

Unlike the vaccines for infectious diseases, cancer vaccines don’t prevent the cancer disease. They are developed to cure it. Cancer vaccines are in fact used to treat metastatic cancer. They, in fact, aim to boost the immune system to recognize, attack and cure the disease. For this important feature, they are also called therapeutic cancer vaccines and are included in the field of cancer immunotherapy.

The latter involves the immune system and aims to avoid the traditional and, sometime, toxic chemotherapy. The only vaccine that prevents cancer is the one against the HPV, the virus which causes cervical cancer.

The effectiveness of the vaccine against cervical cancer is by now demonstrated all over the world, even in developing countries, such as Philippines, where, unfortunately, it is still hard to get the vaccine for the second cause of death among the Filipino women. However, in this Country, women can get the HPV vaccine for free at the Government hospitals and barangay health centers.

I really hope that a Filipino blogger deepens this matter very soon, because here, I can only discuss about the international implications of vaccines to treat any kinds of cancer, namely: universal cancer vaccine.

Cancer Vaccine Today

Vaccine shot in the arm
Vaccine shot in the arm

The topic of vaccines against cancer has risen just in the time of the Covid-19 vaccine. Many patients wonder because the introduction of the latter has been quicker than the one against cancer? Is pandemic more sever of cancer? From another side, there is also the risk of a rise of cancer cases after pandemic is over. Due to the risk of contagion, people overlooked cancer prevention tests. All that will result in a possible rise of several forms of cancer. Hence, if cancer vaccines were available, we could save many lives.

Provided that these vaccines work. The most relevant results in this field are in Germany and the United States, but also in China, where are the seats of pharmaceutical companies which have worked just on the early vaccines against Covid. Many of these cancer vaccines are only the direct consequence of covid vaccine. As the latter, cancer vaccines are not developed upon existing parts of bacteria or viruses, but on a genetic sequence. The most of tumors, indeed, are not the result of an infectious disease, but derive from a gene mutation in the DNA of cells.

Cancer Vaccines History

The first studies and trials for cancer vaccines started in 1988 for melanoma. This vaccine was tested to treat metastatic melanoma. The name of this vaccine was Melacine, it contained allogeneic melanoma lisates cells (tumor cells from a donor with membrane broken down) along with an adjuvant. The adjuvant was interferon, a natural body protein stimulating our immune system against tumors and infections. Studies and trials continued until 1995 and, afterward, until 2004, when the NCI Surgery Branch used 541 cancer vaccines to treat 440 patients who had metastatic cancer. That was the time when scholars, clinicians and oncologists started talk about cancer immunotherapy and monoclonal antibodies.

These were innovative antibodies that had to block the mechanisms which helped cancer cells grow. I heard about them, for the first time, in 2003, when I and my beloved dad, who had a metastatic colorectal cancer, sought for a vaccine or treatment to defeat his metastatic tumor.

Unfortunately, those early treatments were very toxic, because delivered along with chemotherapy and radiotherapy. When I called the oncologist, an Italian in the United States, on the phone, he suggested me that the treatment would have been pointless for the advanced cancer of my dad. I was ready to do everything, at that time, even to fly from Italy to the United States, to save my father.

The conclusion was very sad: my sweet and loved dad passed away on March, 3, 2004. We never took that flight, because oncologists said that the patient would be died anyway, even with the immunotherapy and monoclonal antibodies. These treatments, in fact, would have killed him, instead of saving him. The patient was already too weak to bear further treatments.

Many years passed from then and today, the development of cancer vaccines is outstanding. Hence, I prefer going ahead with this post. In 2010, FDA approved the therapeutic cancer vaccine Provenge, used to treat surgery resistant prostatic cancer. In 2017, a cancer vaccine based on a neoantigen, showed to be effective to treat melanoma. Therapeutic cancer vaccines are, indeed, based on tumor antigens. Antigens, in turn, are cell substances which trigger an immune response against an agent of disease, it may be a virus or a tumor. Tumor antigens are always the main signal of the presence of cancer.

Types of cancer vaccines based on tumor antigens

There are three types o of cancer vaccines based on tumor antigens:

  1. Dendritic cell vaccines
  2. Peptide vaccines
  3. Genetic vaccines

Dendritic cell vaccines contain antigens. These are cells that communicate the immune system the presence of cancer. Cancer vaccines based on dendritic cells aim to trigger the immune response through the T cells.

Peptide vaccines contain the sequence of the proteins produced by a pathogen, such as viruses or bacteria. Peptide cancer vaccines contain, instead, the sequence of the amino acids of tumor antigens. These vaccines are often synthetic and developed through a software which elaborates a series of digital sequences.

Genetic vaccines are the most recent and innovative weapon against cancer. They are based on the genetical sequence of DNA or RNA, namely on the nucleic acids with the instructions to produce important molecules for the good functioning of our body. Genetic vaccines bring these instructions to cells, where they get turned into proteins and antigens. These substances, in turn, become the target of the immune system. Genetic vaccines, indeed, aim to trigger a strong immune response against a pathogen, such as viruses and even cancer!

These vaccines represent the new frontier of cancer treatment, but also against pandemic. The Covid-19 vaccines, for example, are genetic vaccines based on mRNA, namely on a genetical sequence of the RNA of a virus! How do they work for cancer? Continue reading on

3 thoughts on “Cancer Vaccine: From Pandemic the Key to Defeat Tumors

  1. Reblogged this on Health & Wellness in 2021 and commented:

    Can cancer vaccine be universal? Or, rather, can this innovative treatment be suitable to treat any types of cancer? Of course, it would be wonderful we could prevent or defeat cancer through a simple injection. This guide is born just for that! Namely: to give a reliable answer to the just mentioned …

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