While on the road here in San Francisco at the American Urology Association, I received an email from someone about latest news surrounding the breast cancer vaccine published in Nature Medicine.
Expecting to find some snippets on how this vaccine might work and the usual blah blah blah about clinical trials starting soon, I was rather aghast at the hype and furore surrounding this issue from many reporters touting it as the next big thing – despite not a single study having yet started in humans.
The BBC was thankfully the most measured, but most were not, and do a great disservice to both women suffering from breast cancer and their caregivers/loved ones.
Over the last 10-15 years there have many vaccines developed and tested as anti-cancer agents, yet only one (Dendreon's Provenge) has actually made it to market, and recently at that. I'm not including the Gardasil and Cervarix vaccines in this category as they are indicated for prevention of HPV, which may lead to genital warts and cervical cancer.
There is no doubt that some cancers may have either an infection or immune component – lung, melanoma, prostate and breast cancer are several that come to mind in this respect, whereas others such as renal cancer clearly have a more metabolic process underlying the biology. Immune sensitive cancers are more likely to show some positive data down the line, but please, show us some solid DATA first before hyping a theory all over the internets, however well intentioned.
Jaini, R., Kesaraju, P., Johnson, J., Altuntas, C., Jane-wit, D., & Tuohy, V. (2010). An autoimmune-mediated strategy for prophylactic breast cancer vaccination Nature Medicine DOI: 10.1038/nm.2161