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Journal of Cancer Prevention


J Cancer Prev 2024; 29(1): 6-15

Published online March 30, 2024

© Korean Society of Cancer Prevention

Efficacy of Bacillus Calmette-Guérin in Cancer Prevention and Its Putative Mechanisms

Sakshi Gupta , Saurabh Yadav , Pawan Kumar

Department of Preventive Oncology (Dr. BRA-IRCH), All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India

Correspondence to :
Pawan Kumar, E-mail:,

Received: December 8, 2023; Revised: January 31, 2024; Accepted: February 13, 2024

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License, which permits unrestricted noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) is an attenuated strain of Mycobacterium bovis. Although it was developed as a prophylactic vaccine against tuberculosis (TB), researchers have also evaluated it for preventing cancer development or progression. These studies were inspired by the available data regarding the protective effects of microbial infection against cancers and an inverse relationship between TB and cancer mortality. Initial studies demonstrated the efficacy of BCG in preventing leukemia, melanoma and a few other cancers. However, mixed results were observed in later studies. Importantly, these studies have led to the successful use of BCG in the tertiary prevention of non-muscle invasive bladder cancer, wherein BCG therapy has been found to be more effective than chemotherapy. Moreover, in a recently published 60-year follow-up study, childhood BCG vaccination has been found to significantly prevent lung cancer development. In the present manuscript, we reviewed the studies evaluating the efficacy of BCG in cancer prevention and discussed its putative mechanisms. Also, we sought to explain the mixed results of BCG efficacy in preventing different cancers.

Keywords: Bacillus Calmette-Gué,rin, Vaccines, Neoplasms, Prevention, Mechanisms

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