My Paranoia and Cancer Vaccines

The latest best hope in oncology is cancer vaccine. The wave of the future, it has applications for both the treatment of existing disease & in the prevention of cancer in high risk populations.

The US Food & Drug guys have just approved another specific preventive– hurrah! – but, as of June 2006, none of the cancer treatment vaccines have passed muster. Although still strictly experimental for the targeted therapy of existing disease, we do have some insight now. Can vaccines effect a permanent cure? No signs of that yet. Can they make tumors shrink or disappear on imaging tests? You betcha! Will a good response significantly impact on length of survival or consistently upgrade quality of life? Hmm… wait & see. Are they safe? Zhou's 2006 article in BLOOD says there's a possibility that therapeutic vaccines may eventually worsen a patient's immune response to tumor– a not permanently insurmountable problem, just the identification of a new angle to address.

It makes sense to beware for now, don't you think? A stand is especially pertinent these days, when every other PhD & his mother are cooking up a home brew, with even less scrupulous types cashing in on the topselling product called "hope". Well, if we duly inform people about drug limitations & how incomplete our current understanding is, in toto, are oncologists already justified to offer therapeutic vaccines outside of a controlled clinical trial setting? Someone, please clue me in. I confess that in some instances, I'm reminded of psychic surgery's claims which require a similar leap of faith in an unregulated process. Its too much like a cash cow & so little like good science to offer up vaccines at tremendous costs in some parts of the world without even the pretense of a formal study– sans the critical details of procedure or provenance.

Common sense sayeth: in clinical medicine, the devil is in the details.

Thanks again to Mr Buck Cash

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