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Richmond doctor shares thoughts on 'remarkable' vaccine that could help some women with breast cancer

Posted at 11:43 AM, Jul 08, 2024

RICHMOND, Va. -- There's currently no FDA approved vaccine to treat breast cancer patients. However, a national clinical trial is trying to develop a vaccine targeting one of the most aggressive forms of cancers for one breast cancer group in particular.

“This vaccine is remarkable,” Dr. Masey Ross, an oncologist with VCU Massey Comprehensive Cancer Center, said.

A national clinical trial is looking to develop a vaccine to treat women with metastatic triple negative breast cancer.

“So, that means breast cancer that has spread outside the breast and lymph nodes,” Dr. Ross said.

Triple negative breast cancer is an aggressive form of cancer. Fifteen percent of breast cancer patients have that type of cancer and the standard of treatment is chemotherapy and immunotherapy.

“As triple negative cancer is growing and dividing, it can acquire different mutations with its genetic material,” Dr. Ross said.

In the national trial sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, some triple negative breast cancer patients will receive the standard care of treatment. The other women in the trial will receive the vaccine.

“The idea behind the trial is to combine the vaccine with immunotherapy and chemotherapy to lead to a longer (life), prevent further growth and spread of the cancer. Help women live longer, better lives.” Dr. Ross said.

What makes the vaccine so different is it’s personalized.

“So, each vaccine is made from a specific woman's biopsy from her tumor because each cancer is slightly different,” Dr. Ross said.

Once each personalized vaccine is created, it goes to work.

“It's a way of training the body's immune system to recognize those cancer cells or tumor cells as foreign so the immune system can go in and then attack the tumor, Dr. Ross said.

If the vaccine shows positive results, it could lead to FDA approval and that process could take years.

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