Saturday, December 4, 2021

Vaccine trials begin to prevent aggressive breast cancer

This story was originally published in The 19th newspaper on October 27, 2021.

Researchers have begun researching what they hope will eventually be the first vaccine to prevent triple negative breast cancer, the most aggressive and deadly form of the disease. The study marks a significant step towards developing a prevention option for this type of cancer, which disproportionately affects blacks and people under 40.

Triple negative breast cancer cells test negative for estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors, and excess HER2 – traits that would make him susceptible to more targeted treatment.

Approximately 80 percent of breast tumors that occur in women with mutations in the BRCA1 genes are triple negative breast cancer. Black American women are about twice as likely as White American women to be triple negative for cancer, and about 28 percent more likely to die from it.

“There is a great need for improved treatments for triple negative breast cancer, which is hampered by the lack of realistic treatment goals,” study lead researcher J. Thomas Budd said Tuesday. “Although breast cancer accounts for only about 15 percent of all breast cancers, triple negative breast cancers account for a disproportionately higher percentage of breast cancer deaths.”

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Budd and other experts from the Lerner Research Institute at Cleveland Hospital in Ohio have begun a Phase 1 trial, which is funded by the Department of Defense and is expected to be completed in September 2022. – stage of triple negative breast cancer in the past three years and currently without tumors, but with a high risk of recurrence. To attract a racially diverse population to the study, researchers turn to health facilities in the city of Cleveland, as well as Cleveland clinics located near communities of color across the state.

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According to Vincent Tuohy, the vaccine’s chief inventor and staff immunologist at the Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute, the vaccine targets the lactation protein expressed in most triple negative breast cancers. According to him, the vaccine is designed to induce the immune system to destroy the tumor as it emerges and prevent it from growing.

If the first trial is successful, additional research phases and an FDA review will follow. The researchers said there is still a long way to go before the triple-negative vaccine is mass-produced and distributed, but so far they are optimistic about the results. According to Tuohy, the field of cancer vaccines right now is primarily focused on therapeutic vaccines that train the body to attack cancer cells, rather than prophylactic vaccines.

He tied his thinking to what he saw when he was vaccinated as a child. Twenty years ago Tuohy said, “I noticed that the field of cancer vaccines is focused on curative vaccines.” On the contrary, he said, “The entire childhood vaccination program, targeting 16 different pathogens, is a preventive program,” aimed at preventing disease from taking root.

He hopes this triple negative vaccine can be used for prevention. Previous preclinical studies have shown that this vaccine strategy was safe and effective in preventing breast cancer in mice. The study showed that a single vaccination not only suppressed the growth of existing breast tumors, but also preventively could prevent the development of breast tumors.

“The trick was to find a way to inject immunity against cancer before it occurred,” Tuohy said. “Otherwise, in my opinion, it’s like giving Usain Bolt a 20-meter head start in a 100-meter sprint: you give the tumors a head start, and then you start treatment with the vaccine. “

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