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New vaccine strategy shields cancer patients from flu better

New York, Dec 7 : Researchers have developed a new vaccine strategy that reduces the risk of flu infections in cancer patients at highest risk for influenza.

Patients with cancers of the immune system, like multiple myeloma, are especially susceptible to common infections, and a bout of the flu can lead to serious illness and even death.

Even though patients with multiple myeloma and other plasma cell disorders may receive an annual flu vaccine, studies show that a one-time flu shot does not offer adequate immune response.

The new strategy entails offering patients a high-dose flu vaccine followed by a second high-dose booster shot one month later.

“The booster strategy lowered the flu infection rate among patients to 6 percent, and it improved protection against all flu strains covered by the vaccine in 66 percent of patients,” said the study’s first author Andrew Branagan, postdoctoral associate in medicine in Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, US.

“Using an approved flu vaccine in a novel dosing schedule yielded promising results for a group patients at high risk for infection,” Branagan said.

“We hope to confirm these results in a larger prospective randomized trial that is underway now at Yale during the 2015-2016 flu season. We suspect this strategy could benefit other cancer patient populations,” Branagan observed.

The findings were presented at the 57th annual meeting of the American Society of Haematology in Orlando, Florida.