New vaccine strategy shields cancer patients from flu

Monday, Dec 7, 2015,16:21 IST By Metrovaartha A A A

Washington | Scientists have developed a novel vaccine strategy that reduces the risk of flu infections in cancer patients at highest risk for influenza.

Patients with cancers of the immune system, like multiple myeloma, are especially susceptible to common infections, and a bout of the flu can lead to serious illness and even death.

Even though patients with multiple myeloma and other plasma cell disorders may receive an annual flu vaccine, studies show that a one time flu shot does not offer adequate immune response.

Researchers at the Yale University Cancer Centre in US developed a strategy that entailed offering patients a high dose flu vaccine followed by a second high-dose booster shot one month later.

The high dose vaccine (Fluzone High Dose) was approved in 2009 by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a single dose for adults over 65.

The booster strategy lowered the flu infection rate among patients to 6 per cent versus an expected rate of 20 per cent, and it improved protection against all flu strains covered by the vaccine in 66 per cent of patients, said the study’s first author Andrew Branagan, a postdoctoral associate in medicine.

Using an approved flu vaccine in a novel dosing schedule yielded promising results for a group of patients at high risk for infection, Branagan said.

We hope to confirm these results in a larger prospective randomised trial that is underway now at Yale during the 2015-2016 flu season. We suspect this strategy could benefit other cancer patient populations, said Branagan.

The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology in Florida.