Mari Damhof, Willmar Regional Cancer Center Nurse Navigator, is published in Oncology Nursing News

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Mari Damhof, RN, BSN, OCN, ONN

Mari Damhof, RN, BSN, OCN, ONN

Survival rates for cancer have been increasing because of what has been learned through research. Scientist have improved cancer treatments, learned more about what causes cancer, and have improve the quantity and quality of life while having cancer.  There is still no cure for cancer however cancer vaccines are bringing us promising new effective, well tolerated therapies.

Cancer vaccines work by stimulating the immune system to fight infections and diseases. There are two main types of cancer vaccines today, prophylactic (preventative) and therapeutic (treatment).  Prophylactic vaccines are aimed to prevent cancer, while therapeutic vaccines deal with existing cancer.  Cancer vaccine researchers are highly focused on the top occurring cancers which are prostate for males and breast in females.

In 1981 the first prophylactic cancer vaccine was introduced for hepatitis B (HBV), for primary liver cancer, and then in 2006 came the approval for the second prophylactic cancer vaccine, which was for human papillomavirus (HPV) types 16 and 18 that are responsible for approximately 70 percent of cervical cancers.  

The first cancer treatment vaccine was approved in 2010 for men with metastatic prostate cancer.   Sipuleucel-T is designed to respond to an antigen that is found on most prostate cancer cells which will intern increase the survival of men with a certain type of metastatic prostate cancer by about 4 months. This vaccine does have a significant price tag to think about.

Today for early stage HER2 breast cancer patients there is promising hope for a vaccine that is peptide based T-cell immunotherapy, minimal side effects, and won’t cause financial destruction.  In her article, HER2-Targeted Therapies May Provide Simple, Nontoxic Therapeutic Alternative, Mittendorf states that E75 vaccine will be mainly effective in minimal disease or adjuvant situation. Research discovered that patients with lower levels of HER2 expression had a better immunological reaction from the vaccine and that patients with HER2 overexpressing tumors will have an increased treatment benefit by adding transtuzumab.  Because the vaccine trains the patients’ immune system to attack cells expressing HER2, E75 future will be promising in other cancers like prostate, ovarian, and bladder.

Effective cancer treatment vaccines involves an understanding of how the immune system cells and cancer cells interact because the immune system often does not see cancer cells as dangerous or foreign. The development of vaccines was a major turning point in medical history.  Before polio and smallpox vaccines, countless individuals were paralyzed and/or died. With cancer vaccines soon we will be able to look back at cancer and remember the devastation that it used to bring.

One thought on “Mari Damhof, Willmar Regional Cancer Center Nurse Navigator, is published in Oncology Nursing News

  1. Outstanding article for all of us without medical knowledge! Thank you for so much clear information, Mari. So thankful for your years of contributions to Rice. You are a gift!

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