In addition, two vaccines have been approved to prevent cervical cancer. The vaccines, Gardasil and Cervarix, work by preventing infection with the two strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) that are responsible for about 70 percent of all cervical cancers, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute. Gardasil also offers protection against genital warts. Because HPV can be sexually transmitted, the vaccines are most effective when given to young people before they become sexually active. They're currently recommended for females and males between the ages of 9 and 25.
Health experts believe that other cancers that may be caused by viruses, bacteria or parasites could also be good candidates for preventive vaccines, including certain lymphomas, nasopharyngeal cancers, Kaposi sarcoma, adult T-cell leukemia, stomach cancer and bladder cancer.
Treatment vaccines, on the other hand, are designed to use the body's immune system to target cancer cells that have not been destroyed by other treatments. This can be a challenge, however, because cancer cells are very adaptable and often develop in ways that can't be detected by the body's immune system. Cancer treatment vaccines aim to teach the immune system cells to recognize the cancer cells as foreign and attack them.
The first treatment vaccine -- Provenge, for certain types of metastatic prostate cancer -- received FDA approval in 2010. According to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, the vaccine is tailored to each person's particular cancer.
Trials of treatment vaccines currently under way include vaccines for bladder, brain, breast, cervical, kidney, lung, skin, pancreatic and prostate cancers, as well as for Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, leukemia and multiple myeloma.
Liau and her colleagues are currently conducting phase 2 clinical trials on people with certain types of
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