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The Types And Purpose Of Cancer Vaccines You Need To Know

Vaccination is necessary as it protects children from serious illnesses and complications of vaccine-preventable diseases. These diseases include amputation of an arm or leg, paralysis of limbs, loss of hearing, convulsions, brain damage and death. But, in this article we will discuss the deadly disease - cancer and the types and purpose of cancer vaccines.

Cancer vaccinations will help to train the immune system to recognize and destroy harmful substances. Specific cancer vaccines are designed to treat specific types of cancer. It has the ability to fight cancer cells regardless of cancer type.

This kind of vaccine is called a universal cancer vaccine. There are two types of cancer vaccines which are given below:

  • Prevention vaccines
  • Treatment vaccines

Cancer Prevention Vaccines

Doctors provide prevention vaccines to healthy people to keep certain cancers from developing. For example, there are vaccinations for the chicken pox or flu. Similarly, there are cancer vaccines that will protect the body from viruses that can cause this disease. A person has to get this vaccine before the virus infects him or her.

There are two types of cancer prevention vaccines which have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

1. HPV Vaccine

This type of vaccine protects against the human papillomavirus (HPV). If it is a long-lasting virus, it can cause some types of cancer. The HPV vaccines prevent cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancer, anal cancer, and genital warts.

2. Hepatitis B Vaccine

This hepatitis B vaccine prevents hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. This long lasting infection with hepatitis B virus can cause liver cancer.

Cancer Treatment Vaccines

Cancer treatment vaccines are also called therapeutic vaccines. These are a type of immunotherapy that work to boost the body's natural defences to fight against a cancer. Doctors give treatment vaccines to people who have already been diagnosed with cancer.

These vaccines may prevent the cancer from coming back, destroy any cancer cells that are still in the body after other treatments, and stop a tumour from growing or spreading.

How A Cancer Treatment Vaccine Works

Antigens are substances that sit on the surface of cells that are not normally a part of the body. The immune system attacks the antigens and gets rid of them. This makes the immune system to memorize later to destroy an antigen when an antigen comes and sits on the cells of the body.

Cancer treatment vaccines boost the immune system's ability to recognize and destroy antigens when it comes to attack the body.

Cancer cells have certain molecules called cancer-specific antigens. When these molecules are provided to a person, the molecules start acting as antigens. They stimulate the immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells that have these molecules on the surface of the cells.

Most of the cancer treatment vaccines are only available through clinical trials, which are research studies involving volunteers.

Limitations Of Cancer Treatment Vaccines

The limitations of cancer treatment vaccines are given below:

  • Cancer cells suppress the immune system and that's how the cancer is able to develop and grow in the body. Researchers are using other treatments in vaccines to try to fix this problem.
  • Cancer cells develop from a person's own healthy cells and due to this the cancer cells may not look harmful to the immune system. The immune system might not recognize the cells to destroy them.
  • Larger tumours or more advanced tumours are hard to get rid of using only a vaccine. This is one of the reasons why doctors often give patients cancer vaccines with other treatments.
  • People who are sick or older have a weak immune system. Their bodies will not be able to produce a strong immune response after vaccination. Also, sometimes cancer treatments may damage a person's immune system.

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Read more about: cancer vaccine treatment
Story first published: Thursday, March 29, 2018, 18:07 [IST]
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