Vaccines are developing as a viable treatment option in a variety of cancers for which current therapies are ineffective, and sales of such vaccines are expected to approach $3 billion by 2015, according to a new study.

The field of cancer vaccines recently received an unprecedented boost when the US Medicare advisory committee voted in support of Dendreon's costly prostate cancer vaccine Provenge (sipuleucel-T), according to the report, which is published by consulting company Technology Catalysts International (TCI).

As a result, many companies are expected to enter this emerging and highly-profitable field of preventing, treating and potentially curing cancer, it says, and points out that two prophylactic cancer vaccines - Merck & Co's Gardasil (human papillomavirus quadrivalent [types 6,11 and 18] vaccine, recombinant) and GlaxoSmithKline's Cervarix (human papillomavirus bivalent [types 16 and 18) vaccine, recombinant) - have already gained worldwide attention with blockbuster potential.

The report quotes Joseph Pantginis, senior research analyst at investment banking firm Roth Capital Partners, who believes that the next successful cancer vaccine will be Biovest International's BiovaxID (personalised anti-idiotype cancer vaccine) for the treatment of indolent follicular non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and other B-cell related blood cancers.

While he cautions that there may be certain risks, including the path to market for BiovaxID, Dr Pantginis believes that cancer immunology is coming of age, and that Biovest's product can be successful even though two previous idiotype vaccines, developed by Genitope and Favrille, have failed.

There are two main reasons for this, he says. First is the critical data presented at the American Society of Hematology's annual meeting in 2010 which demonstrated that a vaccine against Immunoglobulin M (IgM) and not Immunoglobulin G (IgG) is the reason for BiovaxID's success.

Second, BiovaxID uses the entire idiotype from a patient to manufacture the vaccine, whereas Genitope and Favrille used recombinant portions of the idiotype, says Dr Pantginis.

More than 35 companies currently have active developments in various approaches to cancer vaccines, says the TCI report, and it adds that the greatest challenges to a successful vaccine development programme are seeking the right antigen, selecting the right adjuvant and developing and effective targeting technology.