Dr. Michael Har-Noy, founder and CEO of Immunovative Therapies, Ltd., notes that a primary area of research by cancer development firms is cancer vaccine therapy. Unlike the vaccines that prevent conditions like influenza, polio, mumps, smallpox, measles, and pertussis that most are familiar with, Dr. Michael Har-Noy says that cancer vaccines are therapeutic vaccines given to people who already have cancer. These vaccines are engineered to create an antitumor immune cascade.
The history of cancer vaccine development has been characterized by many failures, starting in the 1990s and continuing up until today. Dr. Michael Har-Noy goes on to say that failures in cancer vaccine research may be due to over-reliance on surrogate endpoints as measures of success, as opposed to using actual clinical responses. This is added to the problem that most researchers, says Dr. Michael Har-Noy, don't comprehend the role of dendritic cells in the immunization process.
However, despite a recent overall improvement in the understanding of dendritic cell biology, and despite superior vaccine design, Dr. Michael Har-Noy notes that clinical cancer vaccines continue to be ineffective, even to the present day. Researchers believe that a signifant factor in the ongoing failure of cancer vaccines is unstoppable immune suppression in the tumor environment. Dr. Michael Har-Noy says that since checkpoint inhibitors appear to work in part by overcoming this immune suppression, giving the vaccines combined with immune checkpoint inhibitors may neutralize this source of vaccine failure. Dr. Michael Har-Noy says that there is currently is only one approved anticancer vaccine, sipuleucel-T, or Provenge. It is approved in the United States and in Europe for castration-resistant prostate tumors.