National Cancer Prevention Month 2023

National Cancer Prevention Month 2023

Vaccine Immunotherapy
Scientist holding a flask

Photo by Chokniti Khongchum

In October 2022, The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital announced the most extensive academic collaboration of its kind dedicated to the identification of vulnerabilities in pediatric cancers. Cancer prevention month 2023 reminds us to recognize, raise awareness and commit to support eliminating pediatric cancer. It’s tremendous to know that research forces like these are collaborating to accelerate finding safe and less abrasive treatments and cures for pediatric cancers.  Along with dedicated organizations, healthcare providers, and research institutions, Here To Serve champions offering patients and caregivers the resources to navigate life after a childhood cancer diagnosis.

This February marks the National Cancer Prevention Month 2023. Here we’ll focus on updates about the top pediatric cancer treatments currently being studied in cancer immunotherapy.

Doctor preparing a vaccine

Photo by RF studio

Latest Treatments

The gold standards of cancer treatment, surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy have successfully helped many cancer patients. However, the aftermath of these procedures can be equally harsh and burdensome on already fragile bodies fighting to heal. But fear not, the fourth pillar, like a knight in shining armor, immunotherapy, has changed cancer treatment in a significant way!

In a previous blog, we discussed the basic science behind  CAR-T cell therapy, a type of adoptive cell therapy. As a refresher, the basic mechanics of adoptive cell therapy is to take a patient’s immune cells, modify them, grow them, and reintroduce them to the patient, where they can seek out and eliminate cancer cells. Since its first introduction in 2011 at the University of Pennsylvania and Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia for treating pediatric chronic lymphocytic leukemia, CAR T-cell therapy has been a savior for blood cancer treatment with successful outcomes for many children without other treatment options.

Young girl smiling after her vaccine

Photo by CDC

However, solid tumors in brain cancer have presented CAR-T therapy with a challenge. Researchers continue to hunt for the potential use of CAR T-cell therapy to treat solid tumors because they find ways of excluding T cells and preventing them from entering and killing the tumor. One of the latest immunotherapies being studied for solid tumors is vaccines.  

There are approved cancer prevention vaccines that target viruses that have the potential to cause cancer. However, using vaccines to help your immune system fight off an already established cancer is a novel but ongoing current research focus, with only one vaccine, Provenge®, currently FDA-approved to treat prostate cancer. Cancer vaccines, like your annual flu shot, are designed to spark an immune response. A potential cancer vaccine would scavenge for tumor-specific or tumor-associated antigens (a toxic or foreign substance in your body). The vaccine would push the immune system to attack cancer cells with said specific antigens. Several types of pediatric tumor vaccines are in development, including those that use cancer cells or parts of cancer cells and those that use viral vectors to deliver cancer-associated antigens to the immune system.

On-going clinical trials are studying the use of pediatric tumor vaccines for various types of childhood cancers, and these studies are being conducted by multiple institutions and organizations worldwide. Currently, phase I/II trials are testing the safety and efficacy of these vaccines in treating pediatric cancers such as neuroblastoma, sarcoma, and brain tumors.

A few of the notable pediatric brain tumor clinical trials that have statistically significant study group numbers, long-term study durations, and may have the potential to move into more advanced study phases are listed below.

Table showing ongoing clinical trials for cancer vaccines

For an exhaustive list and description of the most current vaccine targets in clinical trials, check out the Cancer Research Institute (CRI) information page on various immunotherapies specifically focused on childhood cancer.

Finding an Immunotherapy Trial

Want to find a clinical trial that may be potentially lifesaving for your child? CRI provides the Cancer Immunotherapy Clinical Trial Finder. The tool allows you to input your child’s diagnosis, cancer stage, and treatment history into a simple online questionnaire that helps find the right match if a trial is available.


Need Cancer Care Support?

If you are a family with a newly diagnosed child with cancer or know of a family who finds themselves in this challenging situation, please contact Here to Serve. Click on the Get Help button from our homepage!


Sameera Rangwala

All content in this blog is for informational and educational purposes only. Always consult a medical provider in your particular area of need before making significant changes in your medical decisions or lifestyle.