FRIDAY, Jan. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Most people think of the flu when the word "vaccine" comes up in conversation, but several vaccines also exist to help prevent cancers.
Not only that, numerous researchers are also working to harness the power of the body's immune system to develop vaccines to help treat cancer.
"Essentially, cancer treatment vaccines are the ultimate in personalized medicine," said Dr. Linda Liau, director of the brain tumor program at the University of California, Los Angeles. Liau is currently researching a brain cancer treatment vaccine.
Dr. Jeffrey Hardacre, who's researching a pancreatic cancer vaccine, agreed.
"This is an area that remains in its infancy, and I think we only have brighter things to look forward to," he said. "Using the body's immune system is a potent way to fight cancers." Hardacre is an associate professor of surgery and head of the pancreatic surgery section at the University Hospitals' Seidman Cancer Center at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
Cancer vaccines come in two types: preventive and treatment, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute. Preventive vaccines, sometimes called prophylactic, seek to keep cancers from occurring in the first place. Treatment vaccines, also known as therapeutic vaccines, target the cancer someone already has to help keep it from coming back after treatment.
To date, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved several preventive cancer vaccines, which can prevent some types of cervical cancers and certain liver cancers. They work much like standard vaccines do, essentially teaching the body's immune system to target the virus that's been linked to the development of cancer.
First to be approved was a vaccine that prevents hepatitis B and has been shown to protect against liver cancers caused by the virus. According to the CDC, one brand of the
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