Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in American women. More than 300,000 women will be diagnosed this year. Researchers are working on a vaccine that could lead to prevention.
“Your general practitioner who normally says everything is fine goes pale,” said Barbara Popoli, while speaking in front of lawmakers to push for more funding for cancer research.
When Barbara found out she had inflammatory breast cancer, “Sixty to 80 percent chance I was going to die from this,” she said she was told.
After chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, with her husband by her side, Barbara enrolled in a breast cancer vaccine clinical trial. The vaccine is supposed to stop the cancer from ever coming back again.
Brian Czerniecki, M.D., the chair of the department of Breast Oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida detailed, “I think it’s a potential game changer because we’ve actually shown that people lose this specific immune response early in the process of breast cancer development.”
Dr. Czerniecki has been working on this vaccine for more than a decade.“It’s meant to restore an immune response,” explained Dr. Czerniecki.
To make the vaccine, white blood cells are removed from the patient. Then those T cells are activated to become immune responders that target cancer cells. The customized vaccine is injected back into the patient. Dr. Czerniecki said, “It showed a nice impact in that some people had their disease completely disappear before we operated on them.”
The vaccine can be given six to nine times to mostly patients who have HER2 positive disease. Eighty percent of those in the trial had an immune response.
Barbara said, “It’s revving up my T cells so my own body can fight this from here on out and hopefully never ever have to go through this again.”
The vaccine side effects could be fatigue, injection site reaction, and chills. The vaccine is still in clinical trials.