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New Breast Cancer Vaccine Slows Progression of Disease

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Here’s some positive Monday news: In an important first step, a new breast cancer vaccine that aims to slow the cancer's progression was found safe for patients with metastatic breast cancer, according to preliminary results of an early clinical trial.

The vaccine, developed by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, causes the body’s immune system to seek out and destroy a protein called mammaglobin-A, found in as many as 80 percent of breast cancer cases. As mammaglobin is found almost exclusively in breast tissue, the ability to specifically target the protein is particularly exciting for researchers. (There's a lot to know about this disease. Check out 6 Things You Don't Know About Breast Cancer.)

“In theory, this means we could treat a large number of breast cancer patients with potentially fewer side effects," said breast cancer surgeon and senior author William E. Gillanders, M.D., in the press release(It's important to note that this vaccine would not be effective in the smaller proportion of breast cancer patients whose tumors do not produce mammaglobin-A.)

Although the trial was designed to test vaccine safety, of the 14 patients with metastatic breast cancer who received the vaccine, about half showed no progression of their cancer one year later. This is especially remarkable considering the weakened immune systems of these patients due to exposure to chemotherapy.

Now that the vaccine has proved safe, Gillanders and his colleagues are planning a larger clinical trial to test the vaccine in newly diagnosed breast cancer patients whose immune systems are not as compromised, which will give a better idea of the vaccine's effectiveness.

See how we've been Making Strides Against Breast Cancer with this look back at the improvements in research and survival rates over the last thirty years. 

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