Greater emphasis on immune system-based prevention should be central to new efforts to prevent cancer, researchers say.
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"The body's immune system is capable of intercepting pre-malignancies and preventing cancer. It does so countless times every day in all of us. That natural ability is what we want to leverage," said Elizabeth M. Jaffee from the Johns Hopkins University in the US.
"Building upon our innate defenses against cancer is the foundation of new immunotherapies, which have shown great promise in a very short time," Jaffee added.
New research tools and other developments now make it possible to decipher in detail how different cancers begin, how benign or precancerous tissues turn malignant and deadly, the researchers said.
However, "if we are ever to eradicate this scourge, we must work to prevent it from occurring altogether," noted Scott M. Lippman, Director of Moores Cancer Center at the University of California - San Diego.
Prevention research has made strides, but progress has been anecdotal and isolated.
"If the goal is eradication of cancer, we need a radically new focus, investment and approach to premalignant diseases and cancer prevention, one that is supported and sustained by broad, deep efforts like the Cancer Moonshot and Human Vaccines Project," Lippman added.
Continued and new development of cancer vaccines like the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine which provides almost 100 per cent protection against strains linked to several types of cancer, will be critical he said, in the paper published in the journal PNAS.