Researchers created a novel vaccine strategy to lower influenza infection risks among cancer patients who are most susceptible to the virus.

Sufferers of immune-system cancers like multiple myeloma would be particularly prone to everyday infections, with a simple case of the flu potentially leading to serious disease and even death. Studies also show that the annual, one-time flu shot given to those with these conditions as well as other plasma cell disorders provide lacking immune response.

Researchers from the Yale University Cancer Center then developed an enhanced strategy: a high-dose flu vaccine called Fluzone High-Dose – approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2009 as a single adult dose – followed by a high-dose booster shot administered a month later.

The results: the booster technique reduced flu infection to 6 percent instead of the expected 20 percent, and offered enhanced protection from all flu strains that the vaccine covered in 66 percent of the subjects.

The findings were presented on Dec. 6 at the American Society of Hematology’ annual meeting held in Florida.

Dr. Andrew Branagan, the study first author and a hematology postdoctoral associate, said that that the new dosing schedule of the flu vaccine results in promising effects for a group of high-risk patients.

The team was hoping to confirm the findings in a larger trial now happening at Yale during the 2015 to 2016 flu season. “We suspect this strategy could benefit other cancer patient populations," he said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended getting a yearly flu vaccine for everyone ages 6 months and above, preferably soon after the shots are available or by October. It takes around two weeks post-flu shot for antibodies to manifest in the body, producing the desired protection.

The CDC also suggested daily preventive steps, including regular handwashing and staying away from sick, immune-compromised individuals.

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