What the Future Holds

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S. Jack Wei, MD
The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: July 2, 2004

What does the future hold for cancer vaccines?

Cancer vaccines remain an important and growing area of cancer research. A number of phase III trials are currently underway to further evaluate the effectiveness of these vaccines in improving patients' outcomes. A number of key questions and areas of research remain:

  • Can we improve the specificity of cancer vaccines through the identification of new tumor-associated antigens or possibly through the engineering of known antigens?
  • Can we improve the strength of the tumor response, possibly through improving co-stimulatory signals?
  • Will new, alternative methods of delivering antigens to the immune system improve the immune response?
  • Will cancer vaccines be more effective against earlier stage cancers where the amount of tumor is less?
  • Can combining cancer vaccines with other treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation improve patients' outcomes?
  • Will cancer vaccines ever be shown to improve the overall survival of cancer patients?

We are still quite a ways away from incorporating cancer vaccines into the routine care of cancer patients. Nevertheless, the possibility of using the body's own immune system to destroy cancer cells remains an appealing possibility and results of early trials are promising. Research into new ways of treating cancer, such as cancer vaccines, remains critical in our ongoing fight against cancer.