A Vaccine Resurgence?

A nice post from Derek Lowe about a couple new cancer vaccines in the works. The post is pretty sophisticated - if you're not a molecular chemist or a pharma expert (which I'm not) his analysis is pretty dense - but it's enough for me that Lowe finds these things credible. Here's a more consumer-centric report on Cell Genesys's GVAX vaccine from the American Cancer Society, and another on Dendreon's Provenge from the Wall Street Journal. What's interesting to me is that these things aren't conventional drug therapies - they are vaccines derived from a patient’s own cells. The vaccine protein mobilizes the immune system to attack cancer.

Reminds me of some promising vaccine work in a totally different field - tuberculosis. The Aeras Foundation is currently field testing several potential TB vaccines in Africa; Aeras' Lawrence Geiter recently told me he expects one or even two of them to pan out and be available within the next decade.

Add in the recent hubub over the HPV vaccine and I wonder if we're not entering some new moment in immunology, where we're learning to commandeer the body's defenses for those things that it, heretofore, hasn't been able to fend off. Reminds me of the flurry of vaccines from Pasteur and Koch, who thought they'd be able to concoct a vaccine for every disease before the end of the century. The end of the 19th century, that is.

Thomas GoetzComment