Therapeutic and prophylactic vaccines that harness the potential of the immune system against a number of gynecologic cancers are now being developed. The therapeutic vaccines coerce the cellular components of the immune system to attack malignant tissue. The prophylactic vaccines induce the production of antibodies capable of neutralizing viral antigens before they infect host cells. However, malignant tumors are usually a heterogeneous mixture of different malignant cells, and it is likely that variant tumor clones within a tumor may not express the target antigen or may possess defects in their antigen-presenting mechanism. Ultimately, therapeutic vaccines may be better suited for the treatment of preinvasive disease or for use as an adjuvant following primary therapy. The prospects for developing efficacious vaccines to treat or prevent cervical, ovarian, uterine, and other gynecologic cancers are promising, however. This article describes the methodology of and rationale for these vaccines.
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