Researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Florida are currently trialing a vaccine meant to prevent the recurrence of Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor 2 (HER2) breast cancers. In cases when the disease returns, it usually becomes harder to treat and has a tendency to spread faster to other areas of the body. The program already caught the attention of the Department of Defense, who offered a grant of 11 million dollars to push studies ahead.
The vaccine is paired with Trastuzumab (Herceptin), an immune-stimulating product, to create a two-pronged approach. As the drug activates the immune system’s B-cells which detect and eliminated tumor cells with HER2 proteins, the serum stimulates long-lasting T-cells that “remember” the proteins and promote resistance to the recurrence of the disease.
Dr. Keith Knutson, immunologist at Mayo Clinic and lead researcher for the project noted that “The vaccine provides a prevention strategy to deter cancer reformation. The body’s T-cells and B-cells synergize with each other for a strong, durable, immune response.”
So far, the vaccine presented only mild adverse reactions, most commonly fatigue. It did show a measurable immune response in patients suffering from HER2 protein cancers.
Dr. Knutson looks enthusiastically towards the future and says that while the standard approach is to treat existing disease, this method could also provide protection against future risks.
“Our goal is to develop a strategy to address recurrence. We have good drugs, like Trastuzumab, that can interfere with the recurrence of HER2 breast cancer. Our hope is that a vaccine that engages multiple aspects of the body’s own immune system will build on those successes”.