Early in her career as a clinical oncologist and researcher, Dr. Nora Disis made an incredible discovery: Her patients with cancer were having an immune response to the cancer cells. The finding meant that it might be possible to train the immune system to eliminate cancer cells — just as we train the immune system to fight diseases like polio, smallpox and the flu with vaccines.
While her findings were largely dismissed by the research community at the time, Dr. Disis didn’t give up.
Instead, she established the Cancer Vaccine Institute at UW Medicine. Now, 20 years later, it is the largest academic group in the U.S. dedicated to the development of cancer vaccines. Currently, the CVI has more than ten cancer vaccines in development and four in phase two clinical trials.
We now know that Dr. Disis was right — the immune system can indeed be trained to identify cancer cells as dangerous and destroy them. In fact, activating the immune system with vaccines is our best and only tool for completely eliminating cancer at the single-cell level.
Cancer vaccines have the potential to dramatically reduce, and even eliminate, suffering and death caused by cancer, particularly for solid tumor cancers such as ovarian, prostate, breast, lung, colorectal, bladder and pancreatic cancers.
And we are now at a tipping point in the research, with cancer vaccines likely to be approved for clinical use and available to the public in the next five years. But we can only achieve this ambitious goal with the help of donors like you.