Are There Vaccine Recommendations for Patients With MPNs?

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Topics include: Treatments

In this Ask the Expert segment, a Patient Power community member wants to know “Are there recommendations for vaccines for patients with MPNs?” Tune in to hear Dr. Abulraheem Yacoub explain the difference between vaccine therapy and preventative vaccinations. He also shares what is safely recommended for patients with myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs).

The Ask the Expert series is sponsored through an educational grant to the Patient Empowerment Network from Incyte Corporation.

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Transcript

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

Andrew Schorr:

Dr. Yacoub, here's a question we got in from Marta.  Marta wants to know, “Are there recommendations for vaccines for patients with MPNs?” And I guess this would be the typical flu vaccines or maybe related to shingles or pneumonia as well. 

Dr. Yacoub:

So I'm going to take this question to a different level because the word "vaccines" mean many things in the current medical field. 

Andrew Schorr:

Sure. 

Dr. Yacoub:

So the word "vaccine therapy" has been used over many years as a synonym for immune therapies, and we call it the word "vaccine therapy" for many of the currently used drugs that we use as immune therapies.  Now, there are true vaccine therapies for cancer.  In other cancers such as melanoma and prostate cancer, there are certain vaccines that we use that actually fight a cancer.  We don't have such therapy yet for myeloproliferative neoplasms. 

The word "vaccines" also mean immune therapies, which we just touched on interferons, which are the most primitive and the most or the oldest form of immune therapy.  And you can think of it as a vaccine therapy, because it does work through stimulating the immune system in a path that we don't yet fully understand, but it does result in immune modulation and in treating the cancer.  So it also has that implication in terms of vaccine therapy, so that would be another answer to the same question. 

And to take the literal explanation for the question, so vaccines in general in cases of myeloproliferative neoplasms, most myeloproliferative neoplasm patients are in good health and will continue to live for multiple decades in good health, and all the primary health prevention is required, not just approved. It's actually required for all the patients to undergo every single primary health prevention that they can undergo, including vaccine therapies and standard of care vaccines and cancer screening. So influenza vaccine and all the vaccines that require a big inoculation of the virus are safe in all patients, including patients who are immune suppressed.  

For certain live vaccines, such as the nasal influenza vaccine or the shingles vaccine or the measles vaccine, those vaccines should be used with caution in patients who have immune suppression, and that might not be applicable for patients with essentially thrombocytosis or polycythemia vera. But some of the myelofibrosis patients might be on medications that can increase the risk of immunosuppression, and live vaccines should only be used after the physician has approved that. 

And also patients on experimental therapeutics, on novel drugs that we don't yet understand the way they work, I would urge them caution and avoided live vaccinations in these patients. 

So I hope my answer is not beyond the question, but I wanted to take the question to the next level and answer the different aspects of what people perceive vaccines to be. 

Andrew Schorr:

Sure.  And two kinds.  One kind if I have it right like the ones we see at the pharmacy and all that to try to boost our immune system, so we don't develop a condition like the flu, and then the other vaccine therapy like you mention in melanoma and prostate cancer where you already have the have the illness, and you're trying to marshal your immune response to fight back. 

Dr. Yacoub:

Correct. 

Andrew Schorr:

Okay.  Well, thank you for explaining that. 

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

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Page last updated on December 21, 2017