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Last updated on April 20, 2014 at 14:04 EDT

Cancer Patients Respond to Flu Vaccine

July 1, 2011

(Ivanhoe Newswire) ““ A new study reveals that cancer patients treated with the drugs sunitinib and sorafenib responded to the flu vaccine, which suggests the agents do not damage the immune system as much as previously feared.

“The damage that chemotherapy does to normal, healthy cells as it treats cancer has been well documented, but the precise effect that the new class of targeted agents has on the immune system is less well known. This study helps us answer that question,” Keith Flaherty, M.D., director of developmental therapeutics at Massachusetts General Hospital and a senior editor of Clinical Cancer Research, was quoted saying.

“The indication that the flu vaccine is safe and effective in cancer patients treated with sunitinib and sorafenib, tyrosine kinase inhibitors that have been shown to have an effect on several types of cancer, suggests that clinicians can be less concerned about other targeted therapies,” Dr. Flaherty said.

However, Flaherty cautioned that the findings would have to be confirmed both with other tyrosine kinase inhibitors and with other classes of drugs.

The study analyzed 40 patients – 16 were treated with sunitinib, six were treated with sorafenib, seven patients with metastatic renal cell cancer were treated with neither drug and 11 were healthy. The researchers observed an antibody response in all patients comparable with healthy participants.

“The exact incidence of influenza in patients with cancer is not known, however, it is definitely higher than in the general population. Managing these patients with the flu vaccine would improve their quality of life,” Carla van Herpen, M.D., Ph.D.,  medical oncologist at Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center in The Netherlands, was quoted saying.

SOURCE: Clinical Cancer Research, June 30, 2011