Vaccines have been a standard part of staying healthy for almost 70 years, protecting children from deadly diseases such as mumps, chicken pox and rubella. Now, science is looking to vaccines as a way treat people who already have certain diseases, particularly cancer.
Preventive vaccines provide immunity so the body can build up antibodies without actually contracting the illness. Typically given as a shot, a vaccine introduces a small, weakened or dead amount of the disease to the body. It’s not enough to make you sick, but enough to help your body fight off the disease.
Currently, the following vaccines are used to treat cancer:
Clinical trials are also underway to evaluate vaccines for several types of cancers, including brain, breast, cervical, kidney, lung and pancreatic, as well as Hodgkin lymphoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and leukemia.
Vaccines for cancer prevention
In addition to aiding in cancer treatment, vaccines are used to help prevent cervical cancer and liver cancer.
In 1981, the hepatitis B vaccine (HBV) became the first FDA-approved vaccine to prevent cancer, known as a preventive or prophylactic vaccine. Most children today receive the vaccine shortly after birth.
Two preventive vaccines for cervical cancer are now available: Gardasil® and Cervarix®. Both protect against infections from two types of human papillomavirus (HPV), types 16 and 18, which are responsible for about 70 percent of cervical cancers. Those types also cause vaginal, vulvar, anal, penile, and head and neck cancers.
Read more about how vaccines can help treat certain cancers.
Read more about vaccines for cancer prevention.