Cancer vaccines and immunotherapies are becoming more and more popular around the world as a method for treating and preventing various forms of cancer. Within the world of breast cancer, scientists have also been aiming to develop vaccines that could prevent the disease.
Much like immunizations can be used in children to prevent mumps and rubella, researchers are now looking to continue the use of vaccinations later in life to prevent different forms of cancer. In recent years, cervical cancer has been prevented among women through the use of the HPV vaccine.
Brian Czerniecki, MD, PhD, chair of the department of breast oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center, discussed how some viruses could lead to cancer and vaccinations could prevent this, according to Healio. Additionally, there may be specific components of tumors that could be targeted by vaccines and diminish the likelihood of tumor growth.
When treating breast cancer, some researchers have combined anti-estrogen therapy with vaccines, which would decrease the amount of time women would have to receive chemotherapy and, thereby, lead to fewer harmful side effects.
“[Researchers] have designed vaccines that are personalized from the patient to target one of the factors that’s associated with early breast cancers,” Czerniecki stated.
Czerniecki and his team of researchers used neoadjuvant antiestrogen therapy along with anti–HER-2 dendritic cell vaccination to see how it would affect the immune response among women diagnosed with breast cancer.
The subjects received this treatment for six weeks before undergoing surgery. The trial showed that this treatment combination led to fewer subsequent breast health problems and “increased pathologic complete response rate,” the Healio publication reported.
“That’s an exciting advance in breast cancer prevention because it suggests that we may be able to use combinations of these things more effectively and get away from the side effects of the long-term chemopreventives,” Czerniecki said.
Other news about breast cancer vaccines stems from Galena Biopharma, which announced that, unfortunately, its Independent Data Monitoring Committee (IDMC) had to bring a Phase III trial to a stop of its breast cancer vaccine called NeuVax, according to a company press release.
“We are extremely disappointed with the outcome of the PRESENT futility analysis,” Mark W. Schwartz, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer, said in a public statement. “On behalf of our entire company, I would like to thank all of the courageous patients and their families, investigators, study staff and independent committees who participated in the PRESENT study. To date, the trial has not been un-blinded other than by the IDMC, and we need to evaluate the data.”
At the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute, a team of researchers led by Dr. Vincent Tuohy have created a breast cancer vaccine that was found to be 100 percent effective at preventing the disease in all mice models studied. Currently, the researchers are looking at whether the vaccine could be effective in women.
The Palm Beach Post reported on Tuohy’s research who has said that a preventive breast cancer vaccine could be available in a matter of years instead of decades.
“This is the only vaccine proven to be 100 percent effective in preventing breast cancer in mice,” Judy Fitzgerald, a breast cancer survivor, told the news source. “This is the only vaccine that is universal in preventing all forms of breast cancer.”
The idea for the vaccine was first thought of in 2002 when the rate of breast cancer was far from declining. From that point on, Tuohy and various researchers worked on creating a vaccine that targets apha-lactalbumin, a component found in the majority of breast cancers. In mouse models, the vaccine prevented breast tumors from forming.
“We came up with this idea in 2002 when we realized we have this enormous deficiency in our healthcare system,” Tuohy told Prevention.com. “We have a wonderful childhood vaccine program that protects us. Yet we reach our adult years and face all these adult-onset cancers like breast cancer, ovarian cancer and prostate cancer.”