Major breakthrough in cancer research could help save millions of lives
Posted Jun 26, 2023 10:39:04 AM.
Last Updated Jul 5, 2023 10:17:10 AM.
It’s a brutal illness that’s touched most people’s lives in one way or another, but there is hope on the horizon to help cancer patients.
A new breakthrough could help save millions of lives around the world, and it comes in the form of a cancer vaccine.
For decades, scientists have been trying to advance this area of research, and now they are seeing results.
The National Cancer Institute in the U.S. says the shot wouldn’t prevent the deadly illness but would shrink tumors and stop cancer from returning.
There are experimental treatments being given to breast and lung cancer patients right now and there has been improvement in those being treated for pancreatic cancer and melanoma — a deadly form of skin 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, speaking to the Associated Press (AP.)
As research ramps up, scientists are understanding how the vaccine could find and kill cancer cells that often hide from the body’s immune system.
For the shot to be effective, Dr. Nora Disis of UW Medicine’s Cancer Vaccine Institute in Seattle tells the AP it needs to teach the immune system’s T cells to recognize cancer as a danger. Once trained, T cells can travel anywhere in the body to hunt down danger.
“If you saw an activated T cell, it almost has feet,” she explained. “You can see it crawling through the blood vessel to get out into the tissues.”
Some of the new vaccines being tested use mRNA, which was first created to treat cancer, but was then used to roll out COVID-19 vaccines at the height of the pandemic.
The Canadian Cancer Society says there are side effects, but each person will react differently. “Side effects of cancer vaccines will depend mainly on the type of vaccine and usually last for only a short time,” it says on its website. “Side effects can happen with any type of treatment, but everyone’s experience is different. Some people have many side effects. Other people have few or none at all.”
The most common side effects include inflammation at the injection site including redness, pain, swelling, the skin being warm to touch, itchiness, or rash; fever and chills; dizziness; nausea or vomiting; fatigue; muscle aches; and headaches.
The hope is the shots are available in the next five years.