The Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded this month to two researchers for their ground-breaking work in immunotherapy. In 2017, two CAR T-cell therapies were approved by the Food and Drug Administration, one for the treatment of children with ALL, and the other for adults with advanced lymphomas. Relapsed ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukemia) is a leading cause of death from childhood cancer. Pres. Jimmy Carter's life was extended last year by new breakthroughs in immunotherapy. Nevertheless, researchers caution that, in many respects, it’s still early days for CAR T cells and other forms of adoptive cell transfer (ACT) immunotherapy, including questions about whether they will ever be effective against solid tumors like breast and colorectal cancer.
In just the last few years, progress with CAR T cells and other ACT approaches has greatly accelerated, with researchers developing a better understanding of how these therapies work in patients and translating that knowledge into improvements in how they are developed and tested.
Will these new immunotherapies on the not-so-distant horizon result in a "cancer vaccine"? Cancer isn't spread the same way as smallpox and the flu, but cancer is now the world's second largest cause of death. Might those in the anti-vaccine movement still have concerns about a vaccine for cancer? Does the ethical principle of informed consent championed by "anti-vaccers" have relevance in the search for a cancer vaccine and its potential use? Are all vaccines equal? Does the anti-vaccination movement have an ethically defensible position? What role does your faith perspective have in the immunization debate?
Articles for our discussion:
Nobel Prize awarded:
National Cancer Institute on CAR T-cell therapy:
National Vaccine Information Center:
Forbes Magazine July 2018, Pediatrician's license temporarily revoked: