Greater emphasis on immune system-based prevention should be central to new efforts to prevent cancer, say US scientists. “The body’s immune system is capable of intercepting pre-malignancies and preventing cancer. It does so countless times every day in all of us. That natural ability is what we want to leverage,” says Elizabeth M. Jaffee from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the US. “Building upon our innate defences against cancer is the foundation of new immunotherapies, which have shown great promise in a very short time,” says Jaffee.
New research tools and other developments now make it possible to decipher in detail how different cancers begin, how benign or precancerous tissues turn malignant and deadly, researchers say. “If we’re ever to eradicate this scourge, we must work to prevent it from occurring altogether,” says Scott M. Lippman, director of the Moores Cancer Center at the US’ University of California, San Diego. “Prevention research has made strides, but progress has been anecdotal and isolated,” he adds. “If the goal is eradication of cancer, we need a radically new focus, investment and approach...,” he wrote in a paper published in the Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences journal.
Continued and new development of cancer vaccines will be critical, says Lippman, noting that the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine provides almost 100% protection against strains linked to several types of cancer.