Second flu shot helps cancer patients stave off infection, Yale team says

A team from the Yale Cancer Center has devised a novel dosing schedule for flu vaccines aimed at increasing protection for cancer patients who are at a higher risk of contracting the viral infection.

The researchers' approach, presented at the American Society of Hematology meeting this week, calls for the administration of a high-dose flu vaccine, Fluzone, followed by a second high-dose booster shot one month later. Patients with cancers of the immune system such as multiple myeloma are about 10 times more likely to catch influenza than the average person, the researchers said, and can experience serious illness or death if they do catch it.

Sanofi Pasteur's Fluzone received its FDA approval in 2009 for adults aged 65 and older, and according to Forbes, is usually recommended annually for cancer patients. Despite most patients usually receiving the shot, a one-time vaccination may not provide enough protection, Yale said

The novel dosing strategy led to patients being 4% likely to get a flu infection compared to an expected rate of 20%.

The 51-patient study had no control group, but "given these encouraging results," the team said it is planning a randomized, controlled trial for the 2015-2016 flu season comparing the method with standard of care.

Fluzone was the third-best selling vaccine last year with $1.72 billion in sales behind Pfizer's ($PFE) Prevnar and Merck's ($MRK) Gardasil. According to a recent analysis, it's expected to grow in annual sales to $2.03 billion in 2020.

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