Innovative research shows that a new type of breast cancer vaccine could effectively treat HER2-positive breast cancer in its early stages, according to the publication Breast Cancer News. The vaccine uses a patient’s dendritic cells to target the HER2 protein and stimulate the immune system.

The study was published in the Clinical Cancer Research journal. About 25 percent of all breast tumors contain the HER2 protein and bring worse patient outcomes. When HER2-positive breast cancers progress and become more aggressive, scientists have found that targeting the protein becomes more difficult. The immune system loses its ability to fight as strongly against the HER2-positive breast cancer growth.

The breast cancer vaccine that targets dendritic cells was developed at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. The vaccine works by stimulating tumor-killing T-cells, which are part of the immune system.

The researchers created the vaccine using patients’ own blood and harvesting dendritic cells. The vaccine essentially “shows” the Killer T-cells the cancerous cells that are activated with the HER2 protein. The T-cells then attack and remove the cancerous cells.

The researchers conducted a clinical trial of 54 women with early stage, HER2-positive breast cancer to see whether the breast cancer vaccine would be safe and effective. The vaccine was injected into a lymph node, breast tumor, or both once a week for six weeks. The breast cancer patients also underwent surgery to remove any remaining cancerous tumors.

The patients experienced low-grade toxicities but, overall, tolerated the breast cancer vaccine well. The researchers determined a complete response to the vaccine when tissue samples collected during surgery showed no cancerous cells. A total of 13 patients showed a complete response. Patients with ductal carcinoma in situ had a higher likelihood of achieving a complete response rate.

“These results suggest that vaccines are more effective in DCIS, thereby warranting further evaluation in DCIS or other minimal disease settings, and the local regional sentinel lymph node may serve as a more meaningful immunologic endpoint,” Brian J. Czerniecki, MD, PhD, Chair of the Department of Breast Oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center, said in a public statement.

While this breast cancer vaccine may treat certain forms of the disease, Dr. Vincent Tuohy of the Cleveland Clinic has been working for years to determine whether a different type of breast cancer vaccine could prevent breast cancer in women altogether. The Cleveland Clinic vaccine is undergoing promising clinical trials. To learn more about Dr. Tuohy’s preventive breast cancer vaccine, click here.

Do you think cancer vaccines are the wave of the future in treating breast cancer? Let us know in the comments below!

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