Health & Medicine

The docs offer advice: Vaccine as treatment is a great new twist

Using vaccines to prevent disease dates back to around 1000 A.D., when the Chinese used smallpox material to inoculate folks against the scourge. Since then, scores of new disease-preventers have been developed; one of our latest vaccines blocks infection from some strains of HPV (human papilloma virus), which can lead to cervical, throat, anal and penile cancers.

But the powers of vaccines are expanding in amazing ways. Scientists are exploring therapeutic vaccines to treat already existing diseases such as HIV, Alzheimer’s, solid tumors, herpes and cervical cancer (the last two are almost always associated with HPV). These vaccines use various approaches to force the immune system to recognize and then KO a disease. There’s already an approved therapeutic prostate cancer vaccine. And, although the findings aren’t conclusive and seem highly individual, it appears that for some people, either temporarily or permanently, an HPV vaccine may banish HPV-associated warts.

The most recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association says that for one otherwise healthy guy in his 60s, a quadrivalent HPV vaccine cleared his chronic battle with oral warts in three months, and the researchers found other reported successes as well. There are more than 150 strains of HPV, and the vaccine only contains four ... but that may be enough to prime the immune system against infections not found in the inoculation. It will take carefully designed clinical trials to determine exactly who might benefit. But the fact remains, for some folks it seems to help, and that’s intriguing news.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.

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