Vaccines have been used for many years to prevent infectious illnesses such as flu, tuberculosis (TB) and German measles. Vaccines help the body’s immune system to recognise and fight abnormal cells and substances in the body, such as viruses and bacteria.
Scientists and doctors are trying to develop vaccines that can help the immune system to recognise and destroy cancer cells.
Some vaccines have already been developed for a few types of cancer. These are being tested to see whether they can:
- prevent certain types of cancer
- treat some cancers
- help stop cancer coming back after treatment.
You may be asked to take part in a research trial that includes a new vaccine.
Vaccines to help prevent viruses
Vaccines can be used to prevent viruses that can cause cancer. For example:
- The HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccine is routinely offered to 12 to 13-year-old girls to prevent HPV. Some strains of HPV can cause cervical cancer.
- The HBV vaccine is used to prevent hepatitis B, which can cause a type of liver cancer. In the UK, this vaccine is usually only given to people at high risk of developing hepatitis B.
Vaccines to help stop cancer coming back
Some people with early bladder cancer have treatment using the BCG vaccine. The vaccine is put into the bladder. It helps stop early bladder cancers from coming back after surgery.
BCG is not a cancer vaccine. It is a vaccine that was originally developed to prevent tuberculosis.
We have more information about the use of BCG in bladder cancer.