A Vaccine for Leukemia and Lymphoma?

Some vaccinations are recommended even for cancer patients.

Does Hib Vaccine Help Prevent Leukemia?

It might, but there is no solid evidence to support that notion yet. Some vaccines can help prevent viral infections that are associated with cancer. And bacterial illnesses certainly could have the potential to fan the flames of cancer development in some situations. However, protection from leukemia from the Hib vaccine is all very theoretical so far – no solid proof.

You would not necessarily glean this from coverage in the media, however. Headlines about Hib vaccine -- or Haemophilus influenzae type B vaccine -- and its role in reducing the risk of leukemia, seemed pretty clear and straightforward at the time:

“How a Childhood Vaccine Reduces Risk of a Cancer”

  -- The New York Times

“UCSF-Led Study Explains How Early Childhood Vaccination Reduces Leukemia Risk”

  -- UCSF.edu

“How a Common Childhood Vaccine Helps Ward Off Cancer”

  -- Time.com

“Early Childhood Vaccine Reduces Leukemia Risk”

  -- United Press International

There are many proven benefits for this particular vaccine – like protection Hib disease – however, protection from leukemia is not yet one of them, unfortunately. All of these stories jumped the gun. Nothing in the study at hand proved that the Hib prevents acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL, or even that it reduces leukemia risk.

Do Vaccines Treat Leukemia and Lymphoma?

According to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, there are currently no licensed blood cancer vaccines.

How is this possible, given all the coverage of cancer vaccines? Well, some vaccines have been developed, but they are still being researched, and so they are available only in clinical trials. These kinds of cancer vaccines are not preventive, but rather they are designed to try to treat a cancer that has already developed in the body and reduce its potential to grow.

In most cancer vaccine studies, patients receive chemotherapy, radiation or other standard treatments first, before giving the vaccine. According to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, many cancer vaccines being developed are intended to start an immune response to an antigen by stimulating T cells -- white blood cells that are like ‘soldiers’ of the immune system -- to seek and destroy the tumor cells.

Are Flu Shots Recommended for Leukemia and Lymphoma Patients?

The CDC recommends seasonal influenza shots for cancer patients and survivors and anyone who has contact with a cancer patient. To be safe, however, you should always check with your doctor first before getting a flu shot or any other vaccination. There are different types of flu vaccine. According to the CDC, people with cancer should NOT receive the nasal spray vaccine because their immune system may be weakened.

The CDC and the American Society for Blood & Marrow Transplantation (ASBMT) recommend flu shots for all bone marrow, stem cell and cord blood transplant survivors beginning one year after transplantation and again every year afterwards. They also recommend the flu shot for individuals who live or work in the household as the transplant recipient.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society notes that, although most transplant centers follow the current CDC guidelines regarding flu shots, some recommend flu shots even earlier than one year after the transplant.

The CDC provides additional information about flu for cancer Patients, survivors, and caregivers.

Also, there is an article by Karen Raymaakers, an Oncology Nurse on Flu Shot for Leukemia and Lymphoma patients.

Sources and Background

How A Claim That A Childhood Vaccine Prevents Leukemia Went Too Far. http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/05/27/408767323/did-a-study-overreach-when-it-said-a-vaccine-prevents-leukemia.

Accessed May 2015.

Vaccination history and risk of childhood leukemia. http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/34/5/1100.long Accessed May 2015.

How a Childhood Vaccine Reduces Risk of a Cancer. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/05/20/scientists-unravel-how-a-vaccine-reduces-risk-of-a-cancer/?_r=0 Accessed May 2015.

How a Common Childhood Vaccine Helps Ward Off Cancer. http://time.com/3892229/childhood-vaccine-cancer-leukemia/ Accessed May 2015.

Early Childhood Vaccine Reduces Leukemia Risk.

http://www.upi.com/Health_News/2015/05/21/Early-childhood-vaccine-reduces-leukemia-risk/4361432225753/ Accessed May 2015

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