What are Cancer Vaccines?

To understand better about cancer vaccines, you need to know what a vaccine is. Vaccines are medicines that help the body fight disease.Vaccines train the immune system to find and destroy harmful germs and cells.

Like in the case of diseases caused by viruses (e.g., measles, polio, and smallpox) and bacteria (e.g., diphtheria, tetanus, and tuberculosis), vaccines work by exposing people to a weakened or inactivated version of the threat. This enables their immune system to identify these threats according to their specific markers known as “antigens” and mount a response against them. These vaccines typically work best in the preventive setting that is when an individual is given the vaccine before being infected by the bacteria or virus. There are many vaccines that you receive throughout your life to prevent common illnesses. Cancer vaccines majorly can be divided into two categories, vaccines that can prevent cancer(preventive vaccines) and vaccines that can be given to cure cancer( Therapeutic vaccines)

Preventive vaccines

Viral infections are responsible for the development of several cancers and preventive vaccines play an important role in reducing risk. For instance, cervical cancer and head and neck cancer can be caused by human papillomavirus, or HPV, whereas liver cancer can be caused by hepatitis B virus or HBV. Under the category of preventive vaccines we have the HPV vaccine and HBV vaccine that is FDA approved.

HPV vaccine protects against the human papillomavirus(HPV) infection. HPV vaccines can prevent a variety of HPV related cancers like Cervical, vaginal, vulvar and anal cancers. HPV vaccines can also prevent from genital warts. There are different types of HPV vaccines available that are FDA approved


a vaccine approved for use in preventing infection by the two strains of HPV that cause most cervical cancers, HPV types 16 and 18, this can help prevent the development of HPV-related anal, cervical, head and neck, penile, vulvar, and vaginal cancers


a vaccine that protects against infection by HPV types 16, 18, 6, and 11; can help prevent the development of HPV-related anal, cervical, head and neck, penile, vulvar, and vaginal cancers


a vaccine approved for the prevention of infection by HPV types 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58, and for the prevention of genital warts caused by HPV types 6 or 11; can help prevent the development of HPV-related anal, cervical, head and neck, penile, throat, vulvar, and vaginal cancers

Hepatitis B vaccine protects against the hepatitis B virus (HBV) that can cause liver cancer.

Hepatitis B (HBV) vaccine (HEPLISAV-B®)

: a preventive vaccine that protects against infection by the hepatitis B virus; can help prevent the development of HBV-related liver cancer

Therapeutic Vaccines

Unlike the Conventional vaccines that boost the body's natural ability to defend against foreign invaders, like bacteria and viruses, Therapeutic cancer vaccines or treatment vaccines train your body to protect itself against its own damaged or abnormal cells including cancer cells. These vaccines are a type of cancer treatment called immunotherapy.

Different treatment vaccines work in different ways. They can:

  • Keep the cancer from coming back
  • Destroy any cancer cells still in the body after treatments end
  • Stop a tumor from growing or spreading.

Below are the FDA approved therapeutic vaccines

Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG)

a vaccine that uses weakened bacteria to stimulate the immune system; approved for patients with early-stage bladder cancer

Sipuleucel-T (Provenge®)

a vaccine composed of patients’ own stimulated dendritic cells; approved for prostate cancer

There are certain challenges of using treatment vaccines

In the case of cancer, the situation is more complicated for several reasons. Each individual’s tumor is in some sense unique and has its own distinguishing antigens.The biggest challenge in therapeutic cancer vaccine development is finding the right target. Making treatment vaccines that work is a challenge because cancer cells suppress the immune system. The immune system may ignore the cells instead of finding and fighting them. Larger or more advanced tumors are hard to get rid of using only a vaccine. People who are sick or older can have weak immune systems. Their bodies may not be able to produce a strong immune response after they receive a vaccine. That limits how well a vaccine works or how well the body can respond to a vaccine. Currently there are many vaccine targets under evaluation in clinical trials.

Because of the above reasons, a therapeutic vaccine is given along with other treatments.

To know more in detail about the customized vaccination schedule for you, book your appointments by logging onto our website or what’s app on +91 9010020606.