Vaccines & Immunotherapy in LC - 1262218

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Vaccines & Immunotherapy in LC - 1262218

Reading much lately from others going through trials and I'm a little confused. Are vaccines and immunotherapy the same? Have you heard that either of these could actually feed the cancer and cause progression? If they are in fact different, does one work better on lower stage LC and the other on advanced?
Trying to stay current on info coming out of trials and what others are experiencing in case I might need it someday. Take care, Judy

Reply To: Vaccines & Immunotherapy in LC

Hi Judy,

As defined by the National Cancer Institute, immunotherapy is

"A type of biological therapy that uses substances to stimulate or suppress the immune system to help the body fight cancer, infection, and other diseases. Some types of immunotherapy only target certain cells of the immune system. Others affect the immune system in a general way. Types of immunotherapy include cytokines, vaccines, bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG), and some monoclonal antibodies."

A vaccine is a type of immunotherapy which is "A substance or group of substances meant to cause the immune system to respond to a tumor or to microorganisms, such as bacteria or viruses. A vaccine can help the body recognize and destroy cancer cells or microorganisms."

A handy resource, the NCI's Dictionary of Cancer Terms can be found here:

Hope that helps. Also hope you don't need it for a long, long time!

Forum moderator

<p>I began visiting GRACE in July, 2008 when my wife Liz was diagnosed with lung cancer, and became a forum moderator in January, 2010. My beloved wife of 30 years passed away Nov. 4, 2011 after battling stage IV lung cancer for 3 years and 4 months</p>

Reply To: Vaccines & Immunotherapy in LC

Thanks Jim. But does one work better if your stable or lower stage disease and then one with advanced stage disease? And wondering if the doctors have heard that any of these are feeding cancer? To me it seemed like the person had progression on Tarceva and then went on a trial immunotherapy (MK3475) and progressed through this with terrible side effects. But was told the trial drug was feeding the cancer. Don't think in almost 5 years that I've ever heard this. You either respond or you don't and would progress. With all these new drugs in trial, I'm afraid there is much misinformation out there. Take care, Judy

Reply To: Vaccines & Immunotherapy in LC

Hi Judy :)

There haven't been any immunotherapies approved for use in lung cancer but there are several in trials. MK3475 trial is still recruiting patients meaning there's still hope the drug will prolong life not feed the cancer. So I'd imagine it's just one of the stories that get retold after there was a misunderstanding at the cancer center.

I hope you'll never need anymore treatment but I get wanting to stay in the know just in case. The immunotherapies do look promising. I have my fingers crossed.


Dr West
Reply To: Vaccines & Immunotherapy in LC

I don't think there's any evidence to say that immunotherapies feed cancer. I think it would be appropriate to ask what evidence the person who told you that is basing that on, because I'm not aware of it and have never heard an expert say that.

As for immunotherapy vs. vaccine therapy, the term are used interchangeably. There are some people who think that the term vaccine should not be used for cancer, that it should be reserved for a situation in which you give an immunotherapy before a person has any evidence of the disease.

As for the clinical setting in which it should be applied, we usually start in advanced disease, where there is less risk and a shorter time to learn whether it's helping, and then transition into earlier stage disease.

-Dr. West

Dr. Howard (Jack) West
Associate Clinical Professor
Medical Oncology
City of Hope Cancer Center
Duarte, CA

Founder & President
Global Resource for Advancing
Cancer Education

Reply To: Vaccines & Immunotherapy in LC

Thanks all for your responses. I just took the "feed the cancer" remark to mean they progressed and the trial drug just didn't work for them. As we know, these drugs don't work for everyone. And Dr. West, I agree that it makes more sense to start with more advanced stage cancer then transition to earlier stages. Which I've read some trials are now doing some stage I using immunotherapy.
Take care, Judy

Reply To: Vaccines & Immunotherapy in LC

Vaccines are simply one type of immunotherapy. There are other types of immunotherapy: TILs, immune checkpoint inhibitors, cytokines like IL-2, etc.

MK3475 is a immune checkpoint inhibitor, it is not a vaccine. Specifically, it is a monoclonal antibody against PD-1. Another example of an immune checkpoint inhibitor is ipilimumab (Yervoy).

I doubt the MK-3475 would be capable of feeding a cancer, but there is a phenemon of 'pseudo-progression' attributed to this class of drug. That is when white blood cells aggregate around the tumor, causing it to appear slightly larger on the CT scan. Hope this helps.