A vaccine is a tool to help the body's immune system to fight viruses and infections. Vaccines used to prevent or treat cancer are called Cancer Vaccines. The vaccine is administered to individuals who are at risk of contracting a virus and developing cancer and also to treat certain cancers. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the following vaccines for cancer:
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine
- Hepatitis B virus(HBV) vaccine
- BCG live vaccine
- Sipuleucel-T vaccine
- Talimogene laherparepvec vaccine
Alternate Name of Cancer Vaccines
HPV vaccine, Hepatitis B vaccine, BCG live
Body Location of Cancer Vaccines
Procedure for Cancer Vaccines
Vaccines used to prevent cancer: Certain viruses like HPV and HBV can cause cancer. The viruses have antigens that can be recognised by the vaccine. The vaccine helps our immune cells recognise the virus antigen, bind to it, and completely destroy the virus. These include the HPV vaccine and HBV vaccine. It is administered to children and teenagers as they may get exposed to the virus during their growth years. It is given in stages of initial dose, second and/or third dose in intervals.
Vaccines used to treat cancer: Some cancers can be successfully treated through vaccines like prostate cancer, melanomas, and bladder cancers. The tumour cells also contain antigens that the vaccine recognises and helps the immune system differentiate them from normal cells. Once the immune system is trained, it will start killing all abnormal cancer cells. This category includes BCG live vaccine, Sipuleucel-T vaccine, and Talimogene laherparepvec vaccine. It is given in stages of initial dose, second and/or third dose in intervals.
Preparation for Cancer Vaccines
- Children, teenagers, and people who are exposed to a particular cancer-causing virus need to be vaccinated as a precautionary measure.
- All medications taken for some other condition must not be taken before vaccination or informed to local health care providers.
- Some vaccines require a trial dose to monitor and analyse their effects in smaller quantities in case it has been given for treating cancer.
- One need not be admitted as it is an outpatient department procedure. Individuals undergoing treatment for cancer need to be admitted.
- No fasting is required.
Procedure Type of Cancer Vaccines
Invasive vaccine injection
Follow up of Cancer Vaccines
No, follow-up is generally required for preventive cancer vaccination. Patients with cancer need to follow up regularly with their oncologist and local health care provider. Certain cancers may also require chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy sessions to completely eradicate the residual tumour. Medications need to be regularly taken and followed up with an oncologist for changes or modifications in the rehabilitation phase.
Risks of Cancer Vaccines
Some people may experience an increased infection rate and fever due to a weakened immune system. The vaccines may sometimes cause a reversal of immunity. This is rare and can be minimised with thorough screening before vaccination.
A vaccine may not be able to eliminate a tumour completely. The tumour may reduce in size in most cases. The residual tumour is then treated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy sessions.
Response to the vaccine in older individuals
Older individuals have a weaker immune system and may not respond as predicted to the cancer vaccines.
Cancer cells grow uncontrollably in most cases of malignancies. Our immune system may fail to recognise or differentiate cancer cells from normal cells. This can lead to a failed response and recurrence of cancer.
Recovery for Cancer Vaccines
Preventive cancer vaccines may sometimes cause an initial weakness, lethargy, and or fever which usually subsides spontaneously. However, one can resume all activities once fit enough. Cancer patients receiving vaccines may need a longer recovery time due to the Chemotherapy sessions. One is encouraged to move and sit up more frequently to prevent blood clots in limbs. Some may benefit from Rehabilitation sessions for daily activities.