An experimental breast cancer vaccine proves safe in phase 1 clinical trials

An experimental breast cancer vaccine is found to be safe in phase 1 clinical trials / Photo: Unsplash

According to the World Health Organization, 2.3 million women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020, and more than 7.8 million living women were diagnosed with breast cancer in the last 5 years.

Although breast cancer occurs most often in women, about 1% of breast cancers also occur in men. Breast cancer treatment follows the same principles for both genders.

“Breast cancer is not a single disease, which makes it more difficult to treat. There are many types of breast cancer, and treatments that work well for some people may not work as well for others. others. That’s why, we need to conduct further research into the disease, to develop gentler and smarter treatments.”, explained Dr. Kotryna Temcinaite, senior research communications manager, according to Medical News Today.

What new research led by Dr. Mary (Nora) L. Disis of the Cancer Vaccine Institute at the University of Washington Medicine says about the experimental breast cancer vaccine.

Phase 1 safety study

The completed study was a Phase 1 clinical trial that followed 66 people between the ages of 34 and 77 with ERBB2-positive advanced breast cancer. The researchers analyzed the data twice – from January 2012 to March 2013 and from July 2021 to August 2022.

Participants were vaccinated with 10 mcg, 100 mcg, or 500 mcg doses of plasmid DNA vaccine every month for three months. Researchers measured immunity in blood and vaccine toxicity at specific time points and assessed vaccine DNA persistence through biopsy specimens taken from the vaccine site at 16 and 36 weeks.

The researchers noted the most common side effects associated with the injection, 33% experienced flu-like symptoms and 36% fatigue.

Participants who received the higher vaccine doses of 100 μg and 500 μg demonstrated a stronger immune response than those who received the 10 μg dose, but there was no significant difference between the immune responses at doses of 100 μg and 500 μg.

The research team also found that DNA persistence at the injection site was higher with the highest vaccine dose, and that this DNA persistence was associated with a more rapid decline in immunity.

Treating cancer with a vaccine

Dr. Disis, lead author of the study, explained that the problem with current breast cancer treatments is “disease recurrence after optimal treatmentShe said the disease relapsed because a small amount of cancer went undetected.

“Vaccines will stimulate T cells which can be programmed to hunt down those last remaining cells in the body and kill them. Boosting effective immunity is the only way I know of to sterilize the body of all breast cancer cells.”
– Dr. Mary (Nora) L. Disis

“Ideally, it would be great to prevent all cancers before treatment is needed. We have already made inroads with some vaccines in cancer prevention, such as hepatitis B vaccines against hepatocellular carcinoma and HPV vaccines against cervical cancer.”said Dr. Bhavana Pathak, a board-certified hematologist and medical oncologist at the MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center in California, who was not involved in the study.

Vaccine has ‘exciting potential’ for treating breast cancer

Dr Temcinaite believes a vaccine has “exciting potential” for the treatment of breast cancer. However, she said that “Scientists need to study what to include in a vaccine to trigger the right immune response.”

Breast Cancer Now is currently funding research to develop a new cancer vaccine.

Dr. Parvin Peddi, medical oncologist and director of medical breast oncology at Providence Saint John’s Health Center and associate professor of medical oncology at Saint John’s Cancer Institute in California, also told MNT:

“This is the first study, to my knowledge, to examine a HER2-specific vaccine for patients with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer who are in remission. Although this is a early study and was not directly compared to patients who did not receive the vaccine, the survival of patients observed in this study is much higher than expected from observation.

Vaccines against other types of cancer

Dr Disis said she believed there was a “good chance” that breast cancer vaccines would be in use in clinics within about 5 years.

“Clinical trials of breast cancer vaccines given alone or in combination with other treatments have increased by about 25% in recent years. Many groups are working on “next generation” vaccines with delivery technologies and very effective adjuvants”she said for MNT.

Dr. Pathak shared similar thoughts. She called the current study a “core feature showing increased immune response against specific targets for cancer patients”.

Dr Disis said she believes similar vaccines could be developed to treat other types of cancer, and this is where the future of cancer treatment is heading.

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