Using cancer to fight cancer: The new vaccine

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BACKGROUND: Cancer is the general name for a group of more than 100 diseases. Although there are many kinds of cancer, all cancers start because abnormal cells grow out of control. Untreated cancers can cause serious illness and death. Cancer cells often travel to other parts of the body where they begin to grow and form new tumors. This happens when the cancer cells get into the body's bloodstream or lymph vessels. Over time, the tumors replace normal tissue. The process of cancer spreading is called metastasis.

No matter where a cancer may spread, it's always named for the place where it started. For example, breast cancer that has spread to the liver is called metastatic breast cancer, not liver cancer. Likewise, prostate cancer that has spread to the bone is called metastatic prostate cancer, not bone cancer. Different types of cancer can behave very differently. For instance, lung cancer and skin cancer are very different diseases. They grow at different rates and respond to different treatments. This is why people with cancer need treatment that is aimed at their kind of cancer. (Source: American Cancer Society)

VACCINATION NATION : Dr. David Avigan from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center has developed a personalized vaccine to fight cancer. The goal of the vaccine is to see whether a cancer patient can re-educate their immune system to see cancer cells as foreign, then go after them, attack them, and then kill off the disease. The vaccine fuses a patient's tumor cells with immune-stimulating dendritic cells. The new cells are then injected back into patients in order to reintroduce the entire tumor cell to the immune system so it will see it and go after it.

"We know that cancer has certain unique properties that are recognizable by the patient's own immune system and therefore are potential targets to fight against the disease. But we also know that cancer can find ways to avoid being recognized by the immune system," David Avigan, MD, Director of the Bone Marrow Transplant and Hematologic Malignancy Program at Beth Israel Medical Center and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. "The goal of a cancer vaccine is to see whether we can re-educate the immune system to recognize cancer cells as foreign, and attack them in order to eliminate the disease." (Source: Ivanhoe Interview with Dr. David Avigan)

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:

Bonnie Prescott
Sr. Science Writer, Communications
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
bprescot@bidmc.harvard.edu

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Andrew McIntosh at amcintosh@ivanhoe.com.


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