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Commentary |

A Strategic Approach to Therapeutic Cancer Vaccines in the 21st Century

Matthew M. Davis, MD, MAPP; Elias J. Dayoub, BA
JAMA. 2011;305(22):2343-2344. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.814.
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Prophylactic vaccines have forever reduced the burden of disease in the United States and around the world.1 One of the critical keys to success for prophylactic vaccines was that scientists set their sights on high-burden infectious diseases—frequently with high incidence, and often with high rates of mortality and morbidity and minimally effective therapeutic options at the time vaccines were developed.

Now, in the midst of a golden era of continuing prophylactic vaccine successes,2 therapeutic vaccines for cancer are being developed. Currently available treatments with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy help about 2 of every 3 patients diagnosed with cancer survive for at least 5 years in the United States,3 but many of those patients experience treatment complications and morbidities that reduce their quality of life. Therapeutic vaccines that trigger individuals' targeted immune response against tumor-specific antigens and tumor-associated antigens may offer patients with cancer dual benefits of improved survival and reduced adverse effects.

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Figure. Annual Incidence and 5-Year Survival Rates for Different Types of Cancer
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Quadrants are designated based on median values of the axes (incidence = 43 050; 5-year survival = 65.2%). Five-year survival data are based on 2001-20073; incidence data are estimated for 2010.6 Not shown are Kaposi sarcoma and mesothelioma, for which estimates of mortality in 2010 were not available.

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