Vaccines have been used successfully for many years to prevent death and morbidity from infectious diseases. In the last two decades major advances in the fields of genetics and immunology have allowed a significant increase in the use of immunomodulatory drugs in a broad range of pathologic conditions. This article reviews several uses of immunomodulating properties of vaccines, both old and new, with a focus on cancer and autoimmune diseases. Special emphasis is placed on the historical aspects and current applications of the bacillus Calmette-Guérin vaccine, the first vaccine to be used in cancer immunotherapy.
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