Monday, October 18, 2021

Cancer vaccines are new type of immunotherapy that might help in fight against breast cancer

Virtually everyone's talking about vaccines, pro and con, regarding Covid-19 but other vaccines merit major attention as well.

According to an article by Cynthia Weiss of the Mayo Clinic News Network in today's daily Marin Independent Journal, cancer vaccines are "another type of immunotherapy that is being developed and tested for breast cancer."

Weiss' story goes on to say that such vaccines can "help train the immune system to see and 'memorize' antigens, or proteins, found on the surface of cancer cells, so that the immune system can fight these antigens if encountered in the future."

The vaccines, the piece adds, "are being studied in different breast cancer settings: treatment of current cancer; prevention of cancer recurrence; or to decrease the risk of cancer spreading to another part of the body, or metastasis."

Dr. Pooja Advani
Weiss' piece is a question-and-answer format with facts supplied by Dr. Pooja Advani, a Mayo Clinic oncologist and hematologist in Jacksonville, Florida.

Immunotherapy, not incidentally, is a comparatively new treatment for breast cancer that's also been used in treating lung and kidney cancers as well as melanomas. 

It "harnesses the body's immune system to help fight cancer," the Mayo Clinic information indicates.

Currently, Advani's information states, "immunotherapy is approved primarily for patients with metastatic or locally advanced triple-negative breast cancer, which is an aggressive subtype of breast cancer, representing 10%-15% of breast cancer, with limited treatment options other than chemotherapy."

Immunotherapy is not immune to side effects, however. Typical ones, according to the story, "can include fatigue, chills, body aches, injection site pain, infusion-related reaction, headache, flu-like symptoms and gastrointestinal symptoms."

And that's not all. Weiss' Q&A piece asserts that immunotherapy "also can affect live function tests; cause respiratory symptoms, such as shortness of breath, cough and fever; cause symptoms of overactive or underachieve thyroid glad, or adrenal gland; and rash."

But most of those symptoms, it should be noted, "are mild to moderate and reversible, if detected early and treated in a timely manner."  

More information about recent treatments can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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