Cancer vaccines could be the next big guns in the battle against cancer. Recent strides in immunotherapy offer new hope and promise, bringing us another step closer to the goal of preventing cancer. Numerous clinical trials of therapeutic vaccines are under way. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s 2010 approval of Dendreon Corporation’s prostate cancer vaccine Provenge was heralded as a giant step forward in the use of immunotherapy to treat cancer.Therapeutic cancer vaccines work much like vaccines for measles, polio and other diseases. A disease-specific peptide or protein fragment is injected under the patient’s skin, activating the body’s immune response. As the body rushes to fight the invader, it floods the bloodstream with disease-fighting T and B cells.
Since our founder, world-renowned German cancer specialist Josef M. Issels, M.D., pioneered the use of immunotherapy in treating cancer, among the greatest challenges he and other researchers have faced in developing cancer vaccines is teaching immune responders to recognize cancer cells and developing reliable ways to direct cancer-destroying T-cells to attack tumor sites. Dr. Issels’ development of a comprehensive, holistic approach to cancer treatment using integrative immunotherapy was a milestone in the treatment of advanced cancers.
Preparation of the Issels prostate cancer vaccine uses the same principles adopted by Dendreon’s scientists in the development of Provenge. Our cancer vaccine triggers the activation of tumor-killing T-cells. Antigens released each time a tumor cell is annihilated stimulate the production of new antigen populations that are already programmed to recognize cancer cells, strengthening the attack on tumors. (Click here for a visual explanation of how cancer vaccines work on the Dendreon website.)