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Will 2015 be Magic Year for Breast Cancer Vaccine?
Maybe we will have a breast cancer vaccine this year. Here’s why I think so:
Results of a small study published in Clinical Cancer Research have shown that a new breast cancer vaccine is safe to give to people.
The vaccine targets mammaglobin-A (MAM-A), a breast cancer-related antigen (a toxin or substance that causes an immune response in the body). In the study, the vaccine was given to 14 patients with stable metastatic breast cancer who had been off chemotherapy for at least 30 days. Analysis showed that, after they got the vaccine, the patients had significant increases in the number of immune cells targeting MAM-A, with no serious adverse side effects.
If further research goes well, the vacccine may ultimately serve as an effective treatment for early-stage breast cancer.
The research team was led by William Gillanders, MD, of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. In a recent interview with Cancer Therapy Advisor, Dr. Gillanders shared his optimism about the study results. “We learned that targeting MAM-A is a safe and very promising therapy for breast cancer,” he told the publication. He also said that MAM-A is a “highly attractive target” because it is overexpressed (meaning there are many “copies” of the gene) in breast cancer but not in other tissues. According to Gillanders, recent studies suggest that between 60 percent and 70 percent of breast cancer tumors have the MAM-A antigen.
The next step in the research will be to give the vaccine to patients in the early stages of the disease because. Gillanders explained that “there is a growing realization that vaccine therapy is most effective in the earlier stages of cancer.” The trial will be unique in that patients will be given the vaccine before surgery so that researchers will be able to evaluate the immune response in tumor tissue samples taken during surgery.
The vaccine is not likely to have applications for other types of cancers, since MAM-A is found almost exclusively in breast cancer cells.
The obvious question is: To what extent will such a vaccine be helpful for women identified as high risk?
Wouldn’t it be fantastic if women with a known gene mutation such as BRCA 1 or 2 could get a cancer vaccine? I am as optimistic as Gillanders when he says, “Yes, the hope is that someday there will be a prevention vaccine.” In my mind, immunotherapy is the new therapeutic frontier. Until we have a vaccine, we must provide the most cutting-edge surgical, chemotherapeutic, and radiation techniques to cure the patient, while improving the patient experience throughout the treatment process.
Everyday Health, Janauary 23, 2015
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