"It is true, and thus the question of whether it is sad or happy has no meaning whatever."
Bernhard Schlink

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Monday, November 13, 2006

No Cure? Meet Pound of Prevention. 

Treatment is nice and all, but we in public health would rather not think about it; the gold standard for us is preventing disease from occurring. Vaccines are of course the best way to do this, but traditionally they only worked for infectious diseases. Luckily, the last few years have brought stunning advances in molecular technology, leading to development of vaccine candidates for some chronic diseases, like cancer.

Two new candidate cancer vaccines are making headlines today: one for breast cancer, one for kidney cancer. TroVax presents the immune system with 5T4, a surface protein uniquely found on most kidney cancer cells, and seems effective in stimulating an immune response against tumors. Another targets breast cancer's signature HER-2/neu overexpression for immune attack, and also seems to be effective in trials. Both of these vaccines, if successful, would be major progress.

HIV, which is pretty much The Big One when it comes to infectious diseases of public health concern, has proven astoundingly resistant to vaccine developers. Hopefully, a pair of candidate vaccines seems to be making progress where others have failed: a combined DNA vaccine presenting three HIV genes and a recombinant adenovirus serotype 5 (rAd5) vector seems to have illicited very strong immune responses in volunteers, which may indicate some immunity to infection. This would be bloody amazing.

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