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Vaccines could usher in a precise and kinder era of cancer treatment

For too long the leading treatments for cancer have been pretty brutal for patients, but personalised vaccines are showing promise for destroying tumours with few side effects



Health


| Leader

22 June 2022

Cancer cells. Computer illustration of cancer cells, showing the blood vessel formation providing the cells with oxygens and nutrients. The cells with their nuclei are shown in blue.

ALFRED PASIEKA/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

THE first cancer treatments were brutal: in 3000 BC, Ancient Egyptians started removing breast tumours by burning them off with a tool they called a “fire drill”. Even when chemotherapy arrived in the 1940s, it was essentially poison that attacked cancer cells and the body alike, resulting in terrible side effects.

Fortunately, we are now entering an era of “precision medicine” in which cancer treatments can be tailor-made for individuals so they get the best responses with the fewest side effects.

One approach being tested involves the use of “personalised vaccines”. We tend to think of vaccines as a means …

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