Division of Hematology/Oncology


Vaccine Therapy

Medical oncologists at Penn Medicine are internationally recognized for the research and development of therapeutic cancer vaccines. Cancer vaccines are designed to teach the immune system to attack and destroy cancer cells.

About Vaccine Therapy

Normally, when foreign cells such as bacteria or viruses enter the body, the immune system responds to the invasion and clears the body of the infection. The immune system does not naturally recognize cancer cells as being foreign so it does not mount an immune response against the tumor. Cancer vaccines stimulate the immune system to recognize and attack the cancer cells.

Cancer vaccines treat cancers that have already developed. They are intended to delay or stop cancer cell growth, shrink tumors, prevent cancer from coming back and eliminate cancer cells that have not been killed by other forms of treatment. The vaccines are sometimes made with cells from the patient's own tumor that are modified in the lab and then given back to the patient to stop, destroy or delay the cancer.

The Penn Difference

Penn medical oncologists are experts in using vaccines to stimulate the immune system to work harder to recognize the difference between healthy cells and cancer cells, and eliminate the cancer cells.

Penn's multidisciplinary approach to cancer treatment helps patients and their families achieve the best survival and quality of life. Medical oncologists at Penn coordinate overall patient care and direct immunotherapy and other related treatments.

Patients at Penn Medicine also have the expertise and support of the Abramson Cancer Center, a comprehensive cancer center recognized by the National Cancer Institute as "exceptional" that provides patients with specialized cancer treatment and support teams.

Diseases Treated with Vaccine Therapy

Vaccine therapy is not appropriate for all diseases. Hematologists/oncologists at Penn Medicine currently use vaccine therapy to treat:

  • Breast cancer
  • Lymphoma
  • Lung cancer
  • Melanoma
  • Mesothelioma
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Prostate cancer

In addition to vaccine therapy, Penn Hematology/Oncology treatments include:

  • Bone marrow transplant and stem cell therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Hormone therapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Targeted molecular therapy