One grave problem that doctors and scientists face in regards to treating cancer is that the patient’s immune system isn’t recognizing cancer cells as the threat that they are. If they did, the organism would attack cancer tumors and eliminate them quite fast. While there have been documented cases where that happened, for the vast majority of cancer patients, this isn’t happening.
New hope on how to activate the immune system against cancer cells comes from a team of researchers from Berkeley, California, who have been experimenting with the intratumoral injection of seasonal flu shots. This process has successfully converted the tumors from “cold” to “hot”, triggering the response of the immune system. The researchers were led to this after noticing that patients with lung cancer who were being treated for influenza had lower mortality rates than those who were fighting only cancer.
Right now, the team is using mice that have had melanoma cell tumors transplanted into their lungs, and the first results are positive. This doesn’t mean that it will work on humans for sure, but it’s a great first sign. The team tried many different types of vaccines and discovered that those who don’t contain adjuvants work better for their purpose. Also, injecting the flu vaccine onto the lungs had magnificent results, but doing so on muscles didn’t do anything at all.
The flu vaccine that was used in this research is an already approved one, and it’s cheap and relatively harmless. However, we are still many years away from the end of the preliminary clinical tests, the conclusion of human trials, and the actual launching of such methods as a widely applicable treatment in healthcare. Hopefully, it will all work out the way we want it to, and soon enough to save as many as possible.