An early study in mice, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has suggested that injecting tumours with commercially available flu vaccines could be used as an immunotherapy for the treatment of cancer.
The research was conducted in mouse cancer models to show how the flu vaccine was able to stimulate an immune response against the cancer. In addition, the researchers looked at data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER)-Medicare database of over 30,000 people with lung cancer. They discovered that patients with at least one instance of influenza during their cancer had decreased mortality compared with patients who didn’t have influenza.
The researchers also injected flu vaccine directly into tumours in mice with active influenza – this generated an anti-tumour response in the mice as well as resistance to flu infection.
The research is in the very early stages and will need to be tested in clinical trials before it can be used to treat cancer in humans.