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The Bloomberg~Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy

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Cancer Vaccines

Elizabeth Jaffee, M.D., and Daniel Laheru, M.D. standing in front of a sign for The Skip Viragh Center for Pancreas Cancer Research and Patient Care

Among the first types of immunotherapy studied at Johns Hopkins were therapeutic cancer vaccines. These vaccines supercharge the immune system by calling immune cells to the tumor site and causing them to seek out and kill cancer cells throughout the body.

Therapeutic vaccines are different from preventive vaccines, like the HPV vaccine, or the measles vaccine. Preventive vaccines are given to healthy people and are not a form of immunotherapy. Therapeutic vaccines are given to people who already have a disease — to help their bodies’ own defenses fight off the illness.


Cancer Vaccines: What You Need to Know

  • A vaccine for pancreatic cancer developed by cancer researchers at Johns Hopkins is being tested in clinical trials at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center.
  • The pancreatic cancer vaccine uses irradiated pancreatic cancer cells that are incapable of growing. these altered cells release a molecule that acts as a lure to attract immune system cells to the site of the tumor vaccine. Then, these newly armed immune cells patrol the rest of the patient’s body to destroy any remaining, circulating pancreatic cancer cells.
  • There are a few different approaches to using the vaccine: Give it before surgery; combine it with other immune-modulating drugs; or add a second kind of vaccine, a weakened version of the bacterium listeria.
  • Johns Hopkins investigators are also exploring therapeutic vaccines that can be used for breast, colon, ovarian and lung cancers.

Trials Are Treatments

If you’re interested in learning about immunotherapy clinical trials, call 410-955-8804.

 What’s Next for Cancer Vaccines?

Similar to pancreatic cancer, about half of all lung cancers, mesotheliomas, ovarian cancers and stomach cancers have higher-than-normal levels of mesothelin. Kimmel Cancer Center researchers are now testing the vaccine in lung cancer and mesothelioma, and an ovarian cancer trial is set to begin soon.

Explore clinical trials available at the Kimmel Cancer Center.