Some cancer patients could get a new vaccine soon

While the other two Tdap vaccines — Merck’s M3T and GlaxoSmithKline’s 3461 — remain in development, most of the others, including two from Teva Pharmaceuticals, have been around for years.

Research has found that Tdap, most notably Merck’s blockbuster Advair or Pulmicort, keeps long-term asthma patients from getting the chronic lung disease into the early phases of lung cancer, and it might increase the risk of lung cancer for long-term smokers.

But it’s been unclear exactly how well it would protect against lung cancer, another serious, if rare, side effect associated with the inhaled vaccine.

Sometime early next year, “we are going to know whether or not Tdap works,” Richard Schilsky, who heads the lung cancer section at the American Society of Clinical Oncology, said in a statement. “That answers a major question.”

The vaccine, or Tdap, helps get the body ready for an immune response against the tobacco-derived bacteria known as E. coli. When the patient’s immune system has trained itself to recognize the bacteria, it is able to take the next step and attack the cancerous cells in the body.

Glaxo and a small biotechnology company named Hemispherx BioPharma had already set off a hunt for molecular biomarkers that could help them assess Tdap’s effectiveness in early lung cancer.

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