Cancer Vaccines May Overhaul Cancer Therapy in the Next Decade

The term “silver bullet” gets tossed around a lot, but cancer vaccines are just that. Unlike the flu vaccines that we’re familiar with, cancer vaccines are slightly different in that they don’t just seek to prevent cancers from forming. In many cases, these vaccines also treat tumors already within the body.
What unites cancer vaccines is this: these agents, ranging from chemicals to DNA-like molecules to cells, all give the immune system a boost so that it better recognizes and attacks cancer cells.
To Dr. Ronald Levy, an oncologist at Stanford University, cancer immunotherapy is the way to go. You may have heard of some of these treatments already. CAR-T, which genetically enhances a patient’s immune cells to better target cancers, was approved last year to treat certain types of blood cancers.
“All of these immunotherapy advances are changing medical practice,” he says.
And a tidal wave is coming. Just this month, two studies explored completely new ways to shock the immune system back into action.
The first, a Stanford study published in Cell Stem Cell, surprisingly found that induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from a patient can “train” the immune system into attacking or preventing tumors in mice.