Scientists at my alma mater, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, plan to begin clinical trials this spring on a vaccine to prevent the recurrence of breast cancer.
Thomas Kieber-Emmons, director of basic breast cancer research at the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, and his team used a $2.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to develop the vaccine. It took more than a decade of study on the immune system to do so. The immunotherapy is designed to trick the body into doing something it wouldn’t naturally do - produce antibodies that fight breast cancer cells.
Traditional treatment will not be replaced by the vaccine even if it is successful. Dr Laura Hutchins who will be the principle investigator of the trial, points out that the vaccine could be additional treatment for patients along with the traditional treatment such as chemotherapy and radiation. She is a professor of internal medicine and director of the division of hematology and oncology at UAMS.
The trials will be done in phases. The first phase will last four to six months, and involve Arkansas women with cancer that is actively spreading and women whose cancer has come back after going into remission. The women will receive five doses of the vaccine.
The second phase will last about a year and include women who have had breast cancer but are in remission and considered at high risk of getting it again. The women will have to have been off chemotherapy for at least six months.
The number of patients participating in the study hasn't been determined.
To read more about how the vaccine works, click here .