Before enrolling in a clinical trial, patients should discuss the potential benefits and risks with their doctor. Clinical trials can be located by contacting the research institutes directly or by searching the Internet. A particularly good site for getting information about clinical trials for cancer treatment is run by the National Cancer Institute (<http://www.clincialtrials.gov>).
One of the most striking advantages of vaccines compared to other cancer treatments is the relatively low incidence of side effects. Particularly if IFN is used as an immunoadjuvant, patients sometimes experience flu-like symptoms. However, other than some soreness at the site of injection, vaccine patients generally have no adverse reactions to this kind of treatment.
The greatest risk with cancer vaccines is that there will be no immune response and the treatment will be ineffective. Although serious adverse reactions to the antigens, such as the attack of healthy cells, are theoretically possible, these fears have not materialized. Other
than some mild adverse reactions, such as fever and redness of the skin at the injection site, vaccine treatment appears relatively low-risk in the traditional sense.
Based on a review of published clinical trials as of 2000, normal results for this treatment is, unfortunately, little or no effect. Although a response by the immunized patient's T cells against the tumor is often documented by testing, the effect on disease is generally marginal. These results could be at least partially due to the selection process for patients in the trials, who are often suffering from late-stage cancers.
Michelle Johnson M.S., J.D., The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,