Tag Archives: Hospitals

A Vaccine for Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer killed 685,000 women worldwide last year. But the Cleveland Clinic has a new drug that could change that:

Cleveland Clinic researchers have opened a novel study for a vaccine aimed at eventually preventing triple-negative breast cancer, the most aggressive and lethal form of the disease.

Triple negative breast cancer only accounts for 12-15% of cases, but it’s unusually deadly.

Unlike most vaccines, the breast cancer vaccine could even help people who already have cancer:

“We are hopeful that this research will lead to more advanced trials to determine the effectiveness of the vaccine against this highly aggressive type of breast cancer,” said G. Thomas Budd, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic’s Taussig Cancer Institute and principal investigator of the study. “Long term, we are hoping that this can be a true preventive vaccine that would be administered to healthy women to prevent them from developing triple-negative breast cancer, the form of breast cancer for which we have the least effective treatments.”

Dr. Vincent Tuohy, inventor of the breast cancer vaccine, thinks vaccines may also work against ovarian and endometrial cancers:

“If successful, these vaccines have the potential to transform the way we control adult-onset cancers and enhance life expectancy in a manner similar to the impact that the childhood vaccination program has had.”

The idea of a vaccine for cancer isn’t as crazy as it may sound. BioNTech, producer of the first COVID vaccine approved in the United States, was working on cancer vaccines when the pandemic hit.

BioNTech currently has a colorectal cancer vaccine in Phase 2 clinical trials. That drug is even customized to each person’s body for maximum effectiveness.

We may be headed toward a world where if you have cancer, a few injections could stop the tumors in their tracks. And if you don’t have cancer, a preventive vaccine could ensure you never develop it.

The breast cancer vaccine’s Phase 1 trials should wrap up in September of 2022. I can’t wait for the results!

More on tech:

Male Contraception With an Ultrasound Device?

How Tech Could Stop Wildfires

What if Everyone on Earth Had Super Fast Internet for $1?

Photo: “Breast Cancer Cells” by National Institutes of Health (NIH) is marked with CC PDM 1.0

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Why Aren’t Flu Vaccines Free for Everyone?

If you have health insurance in the United States, you can usually get a flu vaccine for nothing. But for the 28.9 million Americans who are uninsured, a flu vaccine can cost up to $50. For a population that is often hard pressed, this can be unaffordable. And if you have a family of 4 to vaccinate, the numbers are even worse.

Meanwhile, COVID vaccines cost absolutely nothing, whether you have insurance or not. Why aren’t we doing the same for flu vaccines?

Medicare pays $10-60 for flu vaccines, with an average price of $36 across all the vaccines they cover. If the federal government bought one for every uninsured American, the price would be $1.04 billion.

In the midst of the COVID pandemic, it’s easy to forget just how deadly the common flu can be. But the flu has killed between 12,000 and 61,000 Americans per year since 2010.

How do we decide if a policy is worth it compared to the number of lives it could save? The government uses a figure called the “statistical value of a human life” to measure whether many policies, such as environmental regulations, are worth it or not. That figure is about $10 million.

At that rate, giving a free flu shot to every uninsured American would only have to save 100 lives a year in order to pay for itself entirely. That’s just 0.2% to 0.8% of all flu deaths. Offering free flu vaccines to 8.8% of the entire population would probably prevent a lot more than a fraction of a percent of flu deaths.

Let’s give this policy a try!

For more on health, check out these posts:

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Photo: “01a.UStreet.NW.WDC.13September2015” by Elvert Barnes is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0