New research led by Dr. Rebecca Auer suggests flu vaccine could help prevent the spread of cancer after surgery

August 8, 2013

New research led by Dr. Rebecca Auer suggests that the common flu vaccine may be able to help prevent the spread of cancer following surgery. Previous research by Dr. Auer and others has shown that surgery to remove cancer can actually increase the spread of that cancer to distant sites, both through effects on the immune system and on blood clotting. Using a mouse model, Dr. Auer and her team showed that an influenza vaccine, administered intravenously just prior to cancer surgery, could stimulate certain cancer-fighting immune cells (called natural killer cells), and reduce subsequent spread of the cancer by 50-80%. They also demonstrated stimulation of these natural killer cells in human volunteers receiving a flu vaccine as part of the TOH vaccination campaign, suggesting that this strategy could also work in patients. The results are published in Clinical Cancer Research.

Funders: Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute, Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation, Fonds de recherche du Québec - Santé, Ottawa Hospital Foundation

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