Breast Cancer "Vaccine" Offers Hope
By: Dr. Oscar Ochoa & Courtney Floyd
Researchers have announced a potential new treatment for early stage breast cancer. The therapy is being called an "immunology vaccine" and works by enhancing your immune system, helping your body to use its best weapon to kill cancer cells.
The "vaccine" doesn't prevent you from getting breast cancer, but it can help treat the disease if used during the early stages, according to a new report published in Clinical Cancer Research.
For insight on this new and exciting frontier in the fight against breast cancer, I reached out to PRMA's Dr. Oscar Ochoa:
Advances in immunology and vaccine molecular design coupled with the ever-evolving understanding of the biology of breast cancer continues to open different avenues for breast cancer treatment. This novel vaccine prompts the immune system to mount a response against the HER-2 protein expressed on cancer cell membranes. Once primed against this protein, the immune system cells will selectively destroy cancer cells that express that protein on their membranes. Theoretically, this selective targeting of cancer cells will minimize the side effects normally associated with chemotherapy since traditional chemotherapy drugs are not selective and affect all cells (cancerous or non-cancerous) in a similar way.
The selective targeting of the HER-2 protein has already shown definitive benefit in breast cancers expressing HER-2. Drugs like Pertuzumab and Trastuzumab, which are in a different drug family than vaccines, are recombinant immunoglobulins that attach to the HER-2 protein and inhibit its function to stimulate cancer cell growth. The effectiveness of Pertuzumab and Trastuzumab are a promising sign that HER-2 directed therapies may be a new frontier for development of more effective and less toxic cancer treatments.
It is still too early to tell how this new vaccine will be used in the future if trials continue to demonstrate efficacy and safety. Hopefully, we will able to offer these innovative therapies to our patients in the near future. After all, rebellions (and cancer treatment) are built on hope!