The Best Flu Shot for High-Risk Cancer Patients

High-dose vaccine strategy may prevent flu in plasma cell disorder patients

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh

(RxWiki News) For patients with cancers of the immune system, such as multiple myeloma, common infections like the flu can be especially dangerous. And new evidence suggests that standard flu shots may not offer adequate protection for these patients.

Now, a team of researchers from Yale University has developed a new vaccination strategy that consists of a high-dose flu shot followed by a second high-dose booster shot one month later. The vaccine, called Fluzone High-Dose, was approved in 2009 for use in patients age 65 and older.

"Using an approved flu vaccine in a novel dosing schedule yielded promising results for a group of patients at high risk for infection," said lead study author Andrew R. Branagan, MD, a postdoctoral associate in hematology at Yale, in a press release. "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."

In a new study, Dr. Branagan and team looked at 51 patients with plasma cell disorders (PCDs). All patients received two doses of the Fluzone High-Dose vaccine.

PCDs occur when the body produces too many plasma cells in the bone marrow. This can compromise the immune system, making patients especially susceptible to infections.

These researchers found that the booster strategy successfully lowered the rate of flu to 4 percent in these patients. A rate of 20 percent was expected. The new strategy also improved protection against all flu strains covered by the vaccine in 33 percent of patients.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all forms of cancer can increase the risk for serious flu complications. The CDC recommends all patients with cancer or a history of cancer receive a flu shot each year.

This study was presented Dec. 6 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology. Research presented at conferences may not have been peer-reviewed.

Yale's Arthur R. Sekerak Cancer Research Fund funded this research. Information on conflicts of interest was not available.

Review Date: 
December 3, 2015
Last Updated:
December 7, 2015