Cancer Vaccines

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Last reviewed
February 28, 2021

Cancer Vaccines

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends cancer-prevention vaccinations for certain people, such as Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines and for Hepatitis B, which is a liver disease caused by Hepatitis B virus (HBV).

Cancer treatment vaccines, also called therapeutic vaccines, are a type of immunotherapy. The vaccines work to boost the body's natural defenses to fight cancer and destroy antigens. According to each person's attributes, specific vaccines and immunotherapies are recommended, such as age and health status, says the CDC.

Cancer cells often have certain molecules called cancer-specific antigens on their surface that healthy cells do not have. When these molecules are given to a person, the molecules act as antigens. They stimulate the immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells that have these molecules on their surface.

Most cancer vaccines also contain adjuvants, which are substances that may help strengthen the immune response.

Cancer Vaccine Library

The Precision Vaccinations vaccine library contains updated information on most cancer vaccines. Please visit this webpage for detailed information.

Cancer & Influenza Vaccines

Additionally, if you have cancer now or have had certain types of cancer in the past, such as lymphoma or leukemia, you are at higher risk for complications from the seasonal influenza virus. The flu shot has a long, established safety record in people with cancer, says the CDC.

Injectable flu shots are approved for use in people with cancer and other health conditions. Furthermore, certain vaccines are designed to create a stronger immune response in seniors. The high-dose flu vaccine contains 4 times the amount of antigen as the regular flu shot.

People with cancer or other diseases that compromise the immune system should ask their doctor about pneumococcal vaccination options.

Cancer & COVID-19 Vaccines

Kelvin Lee, M.D., Chair of Immunology at Roswell Park and a member of the New York State COVID-19 Clinical Advisory Task Force, posted this comment on December 7, 2020: 'Very little is known right now about the interactions of the vaccine with cancer therapy. Your cancer treatments would probably harm the vaccine because the vaccine works with your immune system, and most cancer treatments suppress your immune response. It may be that the vaccine won’t work very well in people who are inactive treatment.'

Note: This content is reviewed for clinical efficacy by healthcare providers.