Preventive Cancer Vaccines Harness the Immune System to Defend Against Cancer Development

While it is commonly known that vaccines can be used to prevent infectious diseases, researchers have also been exploring the use of vaccines for cancer prevention. Olivera Finn, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Immunology and Surgery, has dedicated her career to the study of the human immune system and how it can be harnessed to combat cancer.

While some cancer vaccines focus on attacking cancer cells that have already formed, preventive cancer vaccines aim to destroy pre-malignant cells before they turn into cancer. Dr. Finn and colleagues completed the first ever clinical trial testing a vaccine based on a human tumor antigen, MUC1, in people at high risk for developing colon cancer. The positive results of that study led to a second, larger trial that is currently ongoing.

This past year, Dr. Finn was the recipient of an Outstanding Investigator Award from the National Cancer Institute, providing $6.2 million over seven years to support her research in the immunoprevention and immunosurveillance of human non-viral cancers. She also recently received the American Association of Immunologists Lifetime Achievement Award.

Watch Dr. Finn discuss preventive cancer vaccines in the video.