CRF Blog

The Promise of Cancer Vaccines

by Bill Hayes

Newsweek reports on the promise of cancer vaccines.

After four decades of largely unfulfilled hopes—Dec. 23 marks 40 years since President Nixon declared war on cancer—scientists have hit on a potential cure that few thought possible a few years ago: vaccines. If they succeed, cancer vaccines would revolutionize treatment. They could spell the end of chemotherapy and radiation, which can have horrific side effects, which tumor cells often become resistant to, and which often make so little difference it would be laughable were it not so tragic: last week, for instance, headlines touted two new drugs for metastatic breast cancer even though studies failed to show that they extend survival by a single day. Vaccines could make such “advances” a thing of the past. And they could make cancer as preventable, with a few jabs, as measles.

“Could” is the key word. Cancer vaccines are still being tested. Patients, doctors, and scientists know only too well that seemingly wondrous cancer therapies can flame out. But progress is accelerating. In 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first-ever tumor vaccine, called Provenge, to treat prostate cancer. Scores of other vaccines are in the pipeline. [more]