The use of vaccines to prevent disease dates back to around 1000 A.D., when the Chinese used smallpox material to inoculate against the scourge. Since then, scores of disease-preventers have been developed.
One of the latest vaccines blocks infection from some strains of human papilloma virus (HPV), 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 of which are almost always associated with HPV).
These vaccines force the immune system to recognize and then eliminate 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 an otherwise healthy man in his 60s, a quadrivalent HPV vaccine will end the chronic battle with oral warts in three months — and the researchers reported other 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.
Posts by Dr. Mehmet Oz, M.D. and Dr. Mike Roizen, M.D.
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