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Vaccines for Metastatic Breast Cancer

Posted 8/21/2013

Posted in

  Looking for effective cancer vaccines has been akin to the endless search for the Holy Grail. Most of us are aware of the recently available vaccine against cervical cancer. When given to pre-adolescent girls, it is very effective. Given that cervical cancer is the biggest cancer killer of women in the undeveloped and under-resourced world, this is incredibly good news.

  There has been a lot of research over the past decade or so directed at development of vaccines against other cancers. Usually harnessing the body's own immune system and cancer cells, there have been a number of clinical trials in a range of cancers, and the results have been mostly disappointing. Apparently (and I say "apparently" because understanding it is well beyond me) the science remains exciting and hopeful, and lots of work continues to be done in this area.

  Thanks to Amy for alerting me to this article from Med Page about a new vaccine directed at metastatic breast and ovarian cancers. Like all such news, this should be read with some skepticism and the proverbial grain of salt, but it is hopeful and exciting.

  Here is the start and then a link:

Therapeutic Vaccines for Metastatic Breast Cancer
By Mark L. Fuerst

Cancer immunotherapy has become important again in recent years. While breast cancer has not typically been seen as an immunogenic tumor, recent molecular advances have suggested that indeed the immune system may be successfully exploited to attack cancer cells. One way of accomplishing this is with vaccines.1

One pilot study examining treatment with a recombinant poxvirus vaccine has shown a positive response in both metastatic breast cancer (MBC) and ovarian cancer.2 Researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) gave 26 patients monthly vaccinations with the PANVAC vaccine, which contains transgenes for MUC-1, CEA, and three T-cell co-stimulatory molecules. All of these patients were heavily pretreated, and 21 of them had received at least three prior chemotherapy regimens.


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