A booster flu vaccine strategy for cancer patients

The potentially new vaccine blueprint could have a much wider application

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – It’s mid-January and the flu season is off to a slow start. A dramatic turn following one of the worst years in recent times.

A pilot study in the middle of that bad flu season was conducted at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven. And it yielded promising results for cancer patients.

“In the midst of a very bad flu season, we saw only six percent of the patients got the flu and we generally expect 20 percent or more to get the flu,” said Dr. Andrew Branagan at Yale Cancer Center.

Yale Cancer Center researchers offered patients a high dose flu vaccine, followed by a second high-dose booster one month later. They studied patients with cancers of the immune system- especially vulnerable to the flu, despite getting the flu shot.

“A major challenge for us is to find new ways to prevent or improve flu vaccination and to prevent the risk of flu infections in these patients,” said Dr. Madhav Dhodapkar at Yale Cancer Center.

Dhodapkar and Branagan now have a follow-up study underway.

This one compares the response of a cancer patient getting one dose of the regular vaccine to a patient getting the booster strategy of two high dose vaccines.

“It’s four times what we call the antigen or the part of the flu that triggers the immune response so four times that of the standard dose,” said Dr. Branagan.

The high dose vaccine was approved by the FDA as a single dose of adults over the age of 65.

The potentially new vaccine blueprint could have a much wider application.

“Can we actually use that information to develop the next generation of vaccines that could actually be utilized specifically for cancer patients,” said Dhodapkar.

They are looking for more patients with certain blood cancers to participate in the study.

For more information, call the Yale Cancer Center Clinical Trials office at 203-785-5702.

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