Cancer vaccines are game changers in the fight against the most common forms of this deadly disease.
This year, one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer.
207,000 women will hear, "You have breast cancer."
Furthermore, 63% of women will find out they have ovarian cancer after it's spread.
There are no cures for prostate, breast and ovarian cancers, but now there is new hope.
"I want to be part of something that works and so people won't die at a young age and can benefit from it," Bud Dougherty, prostate cancer vaccine patient, told Action News.
Bud Dougherty knows what it's like to face a tough fight. Diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, he endured surgery and radiation. Now he's one of the first to use one of two newly FDA approved vaccines to treat prostate cancer.
"We're not talking about vaccines for preventing a virus like polio, but we are talking about therapeutic vaccines that treat cancer by revving up the immune system," Philip Kantoff, M.D, at Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Mass., said.
PROSTVAC(TM) is made up of a small-pox related virus. It tells the immune system to attack prostate tumor cells. In a three year study 30% of patients who received the PROSTVAC(TM) vaccine were alive, versus 17% who received a placebo shot. Meanwhile, another prostate cancer vaccine made from a patient's own cells called Provenge improved the median survival rate by ten percent.
"Basically your immune cells will go looking for prostate cancer cells," Jorge Garcia, M.D., an oncologist at the Cleveland Clinic, told Action News.
Doctors say that's a significant benefit for men with such advanced disease they're told they have less than two years to live. At the mayo clinic doctors are beginning to test new vaccines targeting a protein that's abundant in both ovarian and breast cancers. The drug immunizes patients immediately after therapy, when they're healthy, to protect against relapse.
"It creates memory cells that can be stimulated to destroy a tumor," Keith Knutson, M.D., from the Mayo Clinic, explained.
At the Cleveland Clinic, researchers are targeting breast cancer before it has a chance to form.
"It's like weeds in a garden you just can't get rid of every weed, and I thought it would just be easier to get them before they take root," Vincent K. Tuohy, Ph.D., from the Cleveland Clinic, said.
This vaccine targets a protein that's found in almost all breast cancer, but not in normal breast tissue. The vaccine prevented the disease in 100% of cases in the lab. The idea is to vaccinate adult women in their post-childbearing, pre-menopausal years when they're most at risk for developing breast cancer.
Another promising vaccine is targeting lung cancer. Studies show after surgery to remove the tumor, patients who get the vaccine have a 43% lower risk of recurrence.
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