Chemoprevention and Vaccination

Prevention research has looked into the use of medication and vaccinations in lowering the risk of cancer in the healthy population.  

Chemoprevention is the use of substances, such as medication, which can be used to help lower the risk of cancer in the healthy population. Chemoprevention medication is typically used by those who are at moderate to high risk of developing specific cancers. 

Researchers in Greater Manchester have investigated the use of chemoprevention drugs in women at moderate-high risk of developing breast cancer, such as the international IBIS-II trial which found that Anastrozole was an effective agent for reducing breast cancer incidence in postmenopausal women. Research such as this has contributed to The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) backing the use of Tamoxifen, Raloxifene and Anastrozole being prescribed to women who are at higher risk of developing breast cancer. 

Chemoprevention in other cancer types has also been investigated. The research project PROTEC1, led by Dr Emma Crosbie, has evaluated the use of progesterone therapy in reducing the risk of endometrial cancer in a group of high risk obese women. In another project investigating chemoprevention in gynaecological cancers, Professor Ian Hampson examined the use of a topical treatment called Lopinavir for HPV-related pre-invasive cervical disease, as virtually all cases of cervical cancer are caused by the HPV infection.

Professor Ian Hampson

“In countries that can afford vaccinations, national cervical screening programmes and treatment facilities, cervical cancer is very preventable with surgery currently being the treatment of choice for early stage disease. However, even when available, surgery is not without problems since it cannot be repeated indefinitely, it can compromise pregnancy outcomes and there can be other post-treatment problems. For these reasons surgery is restricted for the treatment of high grade disease. Over the last ten years, we have been developing a non-surgical, self-applied topical treatment which can be applied to all grades of HPV-related cervical disease. This new treatment is now being progressed in partnership with New Zealand’s Douglas Pharmaceuticals with the intention of carrying out a phase 2 clinical trial in the UK which is predicted to start in 2018.”  

The use of vaccinations in the prevention of cancer is an important area of research within cancer prevention. Currently, there is only one UK national prevention vaccine available, the HPV vaccination for all girls aged 12 to 13. Professor Henry Kitchener at the University of Manchester led internationally renowned research into HPV vaccinations and cervical cancer, which contributed to the formation of the UK’s HPV vaccination policy.

It is hoped in the future that through the use of high quality research into chemoprevention and vaccinations many more treatments will be widely available targeting the healthy population in order to reduce the risk of cancer ever occurring.