Follicular Lymphoma Vaccine a True Novelty

News outlets ranging from the Voice of America to Health News to
The Money Times are reporting on a lymphoma vaccine that was recently presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology. We'll see plenty more reports of it in the coming days, weeks and months.

So what's it all about in a nutshell?

What does it do?

Like any vaccine, this lymphoma vaccine is made from a strain of the virus that's hurting you; in this case, it's an individualized treatment made from a protein found on the surface of cancer cells. When the vaccine, complete with the protein, is re-introduced into the body, it "increases the infection-fighting cells in the body’s immune system so they eliminate any cancer cells remaining after chemotherapy", according to Stephen Schuster, the lead author of the study and a medical researcher and associate professor out of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

What patients were involved?

76 patients with follicular lymphoma: 35 patients received the vaccine, 41 received a placebo. They were followed for an average of 5 years.

What happened?

In ALL 76 patients, the follicular lymphoma returned. However, in patients who got the vaccine, it took an average of 44 months for it to return, while it took 31 months for the cancer to return in those who got the placebo.

Who makes it?

The lymphoma vaccine is made by Tampa-based Accentia Biopharmaceuticals. They will likely be applying to the FDA to market the vaccine under the brand name Biovaxid.

What does this mean?

Hard to say. It could be a tremendous breakthrough because the vaccine does not harm healthy cells the way chemotherapy does. Dr. Schuster says they're "on the verge of having therapeutic vaccination for cancer become a reality in the next five years.”

While this is exciting, there are lots of variables. The best part, the part that gives me the most hope, is that the vaccine is a novelty in cancer treatment in that it is designed individually for each patient.

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