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Vaccines for Breast and Ovarian Cancer in Early Trials

vaccinesbreastcancer.jpgResearchers report that therapeutic vaccines to fight breast and ovarian cancer are in the first stage of clinical trials to determine their effectiveness and safety.

Dr. Leisha A. Emens, assistant professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins University is working on a new therapeutic vaccine to fight breast cancer. The vaccine is designed to treat HER-2/neu disease, a particularly aggressive type of breast cancer. The vaccine is designed to stimulate the body’s immune system to fight the cancer.

Emens has found that combining the the vaccine with specific currently used chemotherapy drugs increases the vaccine’s effectiveness. She is also working on a vaccine that when used in conjunction with chemotherapy, would prevent blood vessels from feeding the cancer, essentially starving and killing the cancer cells. So far, Emens and her colleagues have enrolled eight breast cancer patients in the treatment and have seen positive results. By continuing their research and further developing immune-based and gene-based therapy, Emens says we can expect to cure breast cancer in our lifetime.

The vaccine for ovarian cancer, developed by Dr. George Coukos, assistant professor at University of Pennsylvania’s division of gynecologic oncology, is designed to “re-educate” the patient’s immune system cells to destroy cancer cells. The trial is a phase I/II trial that is just getting started, and will include about 30 women with ovarian cancer. The trial is being used to test two different new drugs, to see which is more effective. It involves creating individualized cancer vaccines composed of a patient’s own cells, so treatments are customized for individual patients.

There were some 22, 430 new cases of ovarian cancer and approximately 15, 280 deaths from the disease in the U.S. in 2007. About 178, 480 U.S. women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer this year and about 40, 460 will die from the disease, according to the American Cancer Society. These staggering numbers are certainly reason to support and hope for cures to these devastating diseases.

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