Cancer vaccines — they exist and you should get them

cancer vaccines

Viruses cause over 20% of cancer cases worldwide — and it should be celebrated that we have vaccines that can prevent some of those cancers. Considering the fear that many people have of cancer, getting these vaccines should be a high priority.

Part of the reason that these cancer vaccines are not a high priority is probably that cancer may not appear until long after the viral infection. If cancer appeared soon after the virus attacks, the cause and effect would be very clear, probably making the vaccine a much higher priority.

This article is going to focus on preventative cancer vaccines. There are cancer vaccines that are being developed as treatments for cancer — for example, there is a new mRNA vaccine that may be useful in treating colorectal cancer.

These “cancer vaccines” train the immune system, much like preventative vaccines, to attack existent cancer but they cannot prevent it. Furthermore, these types of vaccines are individually designed for each patient — in essence, unique antigens on the cancer cell surface are isolated and used to induce the immune system to attack the cancer cells. It’s a therapeutic technique that will still be used in conjunction with surgery and other adjuvant therapies like chemotherapy.

I might discuss this type of “cancer vaccines” more in the future as they become more prevalent, but for this article, I am going to be discussing preventative cancer vaccines.

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Gayle DeLong, anti-HPV vaccine and anti-autism, died from breast cancer

Gayle DeLong, who wasn’t a scientist, let alone a vaccine scientist, and who wrote an article that tried to claim that the HPV vaccine causes infertility, recently died of breast cancer. Of course, she blamed her breast cancer on her childs’ autism.

In general, I try to forgive people for their mistakes, especially when they are no longer able to respond to criticism. But, I just can’t. Her unscientific rants against the HPV vaccine probably lead to enough people refusing to get the vaccine, and that will lead to additional deaths from HPV-related cancers. That is unforgivable.

Despite that, I don’t wish she had died, especially of breast cancer. No one deserves that fate.

But I wanted to take one last look at her disinformation campaign about the HPV vaccine and some of the things she said in her life. She shouldn’t be remembered as a hero to the anti-vaccine world, but as someone whose words ostensibly have led to cancer and the deaths of too many people

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Secret cancer cure — is Big Pharma hiding it from all of us?

cancer cure

One of the more annoying comments from the pseudoscience crowd is that there is a secret cancer cure and Big Pharma is hiding it in a vault somewhere because they make more money from “treating” cancer than curing it. Now anyone who understands anything about cancer and understands how greedy Big Pharma is would know this is the dumbest conspiracy theory since the claim that NASA faked the moon landing.

I love answering questions on Quora because I thoroughly enjoy taking down people who think you can boost your immune system against COVID-19 or that there is a homeopathic potion that will do something. But the question I probably answer every single day is whether Big Pharma is hiding the secret cancer cure, the one cure to cure them all, from all of humanity.

To save me time in the future, I decided to put it all down in one article for the world to read. The simple answer to the question is no. No, there is no secret cancer cure. And no, Big Pharma isn’t hiding it, because if there were such a cure, the one company that had it could essentially ask for Fort Knox to deliver all the gold to Big Pharma headquarters. It would be the mother of all blockbuster drugs.

So let’s take a look at cancer and the secret cancer cure myth. Get a big bowl of popcorn, because this is going to be a long one.

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HPV vaccine has decreased cervical cancer rates in England by 90%

HPV vaccine cervical cancer

There is more good news about the HPV vaccine – since being introduced in the UK in 2008, the cervical cancer rate has dropped by 90% according to a recently published peer-reviewed article. Cervical cancer, which kills over 300,000 women a year across the world, is close to being eliminated in countries that recommend the HPV vaccine for women and men.

The HPV vaccine used to be the most hated by anti-vaccine zealots, being surpassed by the COVID-19 vaccine these days, but it is remarkably safe and effective. There are so few ways to prevent cancer, and yet this is one of the best tools that we have in cancer prevention.

Let’s take a look at this new paper, just so we can pile onto the narrative about the overwhelming effectiveness of this vaccine.

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Cancer prevention in 12 steps – HPV and hep B vaccines included

cancer prevention

I have railed against pseudoscientific charlatans who claim that they have the easy way to cancer prevention. Generally, these snake oil salesmen try to convince you that they have some miraculous food, supplement, spiritual energy, and on and on, that can either kill cancer in its tracks or keep them from even growing in your body.

Of course, none of their claims are actually supported by robust science. On the other hand, real science has 12 evidence-based methods to actually prevent cancer.

But what about those memes that say that supplements prevent cancer? Nope, they don’t. And that’s been shown in study after study after study after study (yeah, I could go on for a while).

How about avoiding GMO foods because they cause cancer? Again, studies show that GMO foods have no effect on cancers. Oh, one more thing – bananas don’t have tumor necrosis factor, and the yellow fruit can’t prevent or cure cancer (but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t delicious).

Despite the absolute lack of evidence that supplements, kale, bananas, or drinking the pure waters of a glacial fed stream (which may not be an option with climate change), there are only a few things that can be done to manage your overall risk of cancer.

How to prevent cancer has been codified by the World Health Organization’s  (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) into 12 steps (no, not that debunked one) that are called the European Code Against Cancer.

Let’s look at cancer and how to prevent cancer.

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Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis is not linked to the HPV vaccine

acute disseminated encephalomyelitis

A recent case report about a death of a 15-year-old boy from a form of acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) after receiving the quadrivalent HPV vaccine has been widely shared by anti-vaccine groups. Of course, I wanted to look into any potential link between ADEM and the HPV vaccine.

Before I start looking at the evidence, I must point out that case reports have little meaning in the hierarchy of vaccine research. To be honest, case reports, even if they’re published in high-quality journals, barely rise above anecdotes as evidence. Why? They are nothing more than a report without being able to establish causality. But most importantly, they represent an n=1 research population, which tells us little. And it doesn’t show correlation, let alone causation.

We’ve also discussed ADEM before – the tragic story of Christopher Bunch whose mother blamed the HPV vaccine for causing his ADEM.

Setting that aside, is there any evidence that shows any link (or lack of a link) between acute disseminated encephalomyelitis and the HPV vaccine? Let’s take a look at this evidence.

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Did Japan ban Gardasil? No, but the anti-vaccine crowd loves the trope

Japan Banned Gardasil

One of the most popular zombie memes and tropes of the anti-vaccine movement is that Japan banned Gardasil, the HPV vaccine. And like most of those zombie memes and tropes, the facts are a lot different than the anti-vaccine claims. Shocking, I know.

Although I don’t quite understand the reasoning, the anti-vaccine world absolutely hates Gardasil, possibly more than any other vaccine other than COVID-19 vaccines (of course). These zealots maintain that the HPV vaccines cause all kinds of harm to teens and young adults. Yet, there are literally mountains of data derived from numerous huge epidemiological studies that the Gardasil cancer-preventing vaccine is one of the safest vaccines on the market.

So if you really want to prevent cancer, one of the best ways available to you is getting the HPV vaccine. The idea is so simple, yet is clouded by the myths about HPV vaccines – one of the most popular, of course, is that Japan banned Gardasil. Let’s examine this fable with a critical and skeptical eye.

Spoiler alert – Japan did no such thing.

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Gardasil researcher Diane Harper is pro-HPV vaccine – shocking, right?

Gardasil researcher diane harper

Anti-vaxxers love their false authorities, so they invoke Gardasil researcher Diane Harper, MD as the authority of choice with regard to HPV vaccines. Obukhanych is truly a false authority, but Dr. Harper is much more complicated. She actually is an authority for HPV vaccines, but not in the way that the anti-vaccine world would like you to believe.

Because vaccine deniers lack any scientific evidence supporting their unfounded beliefs about vaccines, they tend to rely upon unscientific information like anecdotes, logical fallacies, misinterpretation of data, or false authorities to support their case about the lack of safety of vaccines.

The so-called “lead Gardasil researcher,” Diane Harper, a former “consultant” to Merck and GSK, had some responsibilities in the clinical trials for their HPV vaccines. But the claims about whether Dr. Harper supports or dislikes those vaccines are substantially more complicated than what the anti-vaccine zealots would like to claim about her.

Amusingly, every few months the social media haunts of the anti-vaccine crowd explode with claims that Dr. Diane Harper, lead Gardasil researcher, hates HPV vaccines.

Let’s take a look at the story and see what we find.

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Study finds no link between HPV vaccine and primary ovarian insufficiency

primary ovarian insufficiency HPV

One of the numerous tropes about the HPV vaccine was that it causes primary ovarian insufficiency, also known as premature ovarian failure, which happens when a woman’s ovaries stop working normally before she is 40.

Of course, there has been little affirmative evidence of primary ovarian insufficiency being related to the HPV vaccine, aside from anecdotes, but that never stops anti-vaxxers from pushing that false narrative.

Now, we have another large epidemiological study that shows, once again, that there is no link between the HPV vaccine and primary ovarian insufficiency. And, of course, the ancient feathered dinosaur is here to review that article so that you can debunk these claims whenever they show up.

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The tragic story of Christopher Bunch – HPV vaccine is not the cause

This article about the tragic story of Christopher Bunch was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.

On 14 August 2018, fourteen-year-old Christopher Bunch died from acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), leaving his loving, devoted family reeling. The family blamed his death on the HPV vaccine that Christopher received, and they were quickly surrounded and courted by anti-vaccine activists.

My heart goes out to Christopher’s family. I followed the case since he was in the hospital, hoping and praying with them for a good outcome, and I feel their heartbreak. I was also deeply impressed by their initial reaction, which was to create a positive legacy for Christopher, making him visible and famous.

I would rather not write about this, which is why this post is so long after the fact. But Christopher’s death is since being used to try and scare people away from HPV vaccines or vaccines generally, putting others at risk of cancer and death. With very little basis: the timing and the epidemiological evidence do not support a link between Christopher’s death and HPV vaccines. Christopher Bunch deserves a better legacy than that.

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