The Role of Vaccines in Cancer Prevention

  • Samir N. Khleif
  • Helen Frederickson
Part of the Cancer Treatment and Research book series (CTAR, volume 106)


From 1796, when Edward Jenner infected a young boy with cowpox in hopes of preventing smallpox, to the present day, vaccinations have changed the incidence of many diseases worldwide. The history of immunology actually predates Jenner to ancient China, India and Persia. The observation that recovery from a particular disease rendered people “immune” to a second episode of that same disease, led the Chinese to try to prevent smallpox by exposing uninfected people to pustule samples obtained from smallpox lesions. Jenner then improved the safety of vaccination by using a different, but similar, virus to vaccinate a young boy with cowpox rather than exposing him to the authentic smallpox virus. His observations that milkmaids who had developed cowpox lesions did not develop smallpox led Jenner to “vaccinate” twenty-three other people with cowpox and publish his findings in 1801 (1). This initial experiment serves as an important foundation of modern day immunology, and served to popularize the term “vaccine”, which is derived from the Latin word “vacca”, which means cow. Years later, Louis Pasteur, who had advanced the germ theory of infection, was able to prove that a disease could be prevented by exposure to “weakened” germs, which only caused harmless infections. His theories supported his development of the rabies vaccine.


Cervical Cancer Major Histocompatibility Complex Major Histocompatibility Complex Class Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia Cancer Vaccine 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Samir N. Khleif
  • Helen Frederickson

There are no affiliations available

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