US health officials have approved the final versions of two cancer vaccines that are designed to bolster defences against the most common types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).
The full text of the national advisory committee on immunization Practices (NACIP)’s unanimous recommendation was issued on Thursday.
In addition to NAMT-19 and NAC-19, the CDC approved two other potential boosters to cancer vaccines, giving the largest US public health agency broad authority to recommend their use.
The new recommendations mean that US adults, particularly those at higher risk for developing NHL, are now eligible to take full or partial doses of these three vaccines:
Children younger than two are currently eligible to receive NAMT-19, but the CDC also recommends that adults have the vaccine when it is recommended for them by their healthcare provider.
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The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommended that women who become pregnant receive vaccines that could protect their fetus from a deadly B cell-derived cancer called foetal blastoma.
All three vaccines are licensed by the Food and Drug Administration and cost between $65 and $85. Each vaccination provides five full doses of an antigen that helps stimulate white blood cells to produce antibodies against the disease.
Up to 8,000 people develop NHL each year in the US, the CDC estimates. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is the most common form of cancer in adults, killing about 10,000 Americans each year. NHL typically appears in the 30s, 40s and 50s and is most commonly diagnosed in men.
“This NACIP decision makes it even more important for healthcare providers to recommend childhood cancer vaccines to all high-risk adults – those at high risk for lymphoma,” said CDC director, Brenda Fitzgerald. “We know these vaccines are safe and effective for adults who, once recommended, will receive multiple doses over a 6-9 month period.”
Lymphoma vaccines are controversial because so few of them have been evaluated for their ability to treat certain types of the disease, especially NHL, which has not been specifically studied.
According to CDC statistics, 19% of people who get an NAMT-19 vaccine develop NHL.
However, the vaccines are effective for people with a particular risk of NHL, including the elderly, people with a genetic mutation and people who have had a recent blood cancer. “People should have these vaccines to boost their immunity to whatever may happen at the time they were vaccinated,” said Olindo Andrade, who worked on one of the three new vaccines and now consults with OncoSec, the company that developed them.
All three cancer vaccines use a type of immune stimulator called a “key trigger antigen”, or KSE, that stimulates white blood cells to produce antibodies against cancer cells. For example, NAMT-19 is approved to treat a subset of a subset of patients with NHL called mantle cell lymphoma and fatal low-grade serous rhabdomyosarcoma.
“We expect the number of new vaccines to be available in the future and to be improved in quality and effectiveness as the science continues to move forward,” said Fitzgerald.
Currently, there are no preventive measures to reduce risk of developing NHL, said Bill Moynihan, who worked on NACIP from 1992 to 2012. However, there are vaccines that can prevent certain types of kidney and prostate cancer.
Moynihan said it was unclear whether the new recommendations would result in increased use of the cancer vaccines among adult Americans. He noted that the potential benefits of vaccines may be tough to quantify until more of the vaccines are tested in humans.
“I think they will give increased confidence to the public that the clinical trials which were intended to determine the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines for adults are working,” he said.