Hodgkin’s Lymphoma: An Environmental Scan

Table of Contents

4.3 Infectious Agents and Vaccines

From a research perspective, the goal is to find and identify the oncogene (a particular gene that in a specific quantity will cause a normal cell to change into a cancer and impedes cell death) associated with the EBV virus. Once again, this is difficult given how few HRS cells are found within a cHL tumor (Küppers, Yahalom, and Josting 2006). Continuing to develop primary prevention strategies surrounding infections associated with cancer such as vaccinations will pay-off two-fold, one the incidence of infectious disease will decrease and two, the associated risk and development of cancer as a result of such infections will also decrease over time. This may be particularly important in the developing world where advanced treatments are not always available thus; preventing disease in the first place becomes even more important.

As vaccinations have proved paramount in gaining control over a variety of infectious diseases, there is also the potential that developing vaccines on a large scale to target the infectious agents associated with the development of cancer and secondly to also use vaccines as a treatment option will also prove beneficial. The idea is to stimulate the body’s own immune system through vaccination to deal with both the infectious agents associated with various cancers or to promote the body to deal directly with the cancer cells itself.

The vaccines provoke the body’s immune system to create a specific antibody that will attach itself to the particular antigen that has invaded the body. In the case of infectious diseases known to cause cancer, the vaccine promotes the production of the antibody needed to kill the infection; thereby reducing the risk of getting the associated cancer. Well known is the Gardasil vaccine for HPV that causes the majority of cases of cervical cancer. Concerning infectious agents that cause cancer such as EBV and resulting HL cases, using a vaccination against EBV has the potential to dramatically reduce the number of HL cases that occur and significantly impact the burden of disease. Similarly, the impact of the continued HIV epidemic, particularly in developing countries  is also another infection that could substantially be reduced by vaccination and lead to a decrease in resulting cases of HIV associated cancers (Raabe and Kim 2010).

Beyond simply reducing infections, vaccines are an additional emerging treatment option in general. Creating vaccines using the specific antigens associated with cancer cells, results in the body producing the exact antibody needed to detect and kill the cancer cell. Research in the area of NHL, has developed a vaccine by doctors at the National Cancer Institute and was administered to 20 patients who were in complete remission. The vaccine was created from the patient’s own lymphoma cells, which helped their immune systems, identify the residual lymphoma cells and eliminate them.  Specific vaccination against infectious agents known to have a role in the development of cancer or using vaccinations to further develop a personalized medicine option for patients are two applications of vaccinations that may prove extremely beneficial in both primary and secondary prevention strategies surrounding cancer.