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Breast Cancer Vaccine Works Against Deadlier Form of Disease
Date:4/13/2008

It reduced mortality among women with HER2 malignancies, study shows

SUNDAY, April 13 (HealthDay News) -- A breast cancer vaccine significantly reduced the risk of recurrence for patients who have a high expression of the protein HER2-neu.

This type of breast cancer, representing about one-quarter of all cases, tends to be deadlier than other forms of the disease. In this group, the vaccine reduced mortality by 50 percent.

Even better, however, the vaccine lowered mortality by 100 percent in women with breast cancer and low or intermediate expression of HER2/neu. Currently, these women have no therapies other than conventional cancer treatments such as surgery and chemo.

"We now have something we think works in the majority of women with breast cancer who are currently underserved," said Dr. George Peoples, senior author of the study, which is expected to be presented at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting, in San Diego. "It's also very, very well-tolerated, like a flu shot."

Peoples is chief of surgical oncology at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio and director of the Cancer Vaccine Development Program at the U.S. Military Cancer Institute.

According to study lead author, Dr. Linda Benavides, a resident in general surgery at Brooke Army Medical Center, the biotech firm, Apthera, has licensed the vaccine, named it NeuVax, and is currently planning phase 3 clinical trials.

But there's still no guarantee the vaccine will reach the market.

"It is a very exciting area of research, but it's very exploratory and not ready for prime time," said Dr. Minetta Liu, a translational researcher/breast oncologist at Georgetown's Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Other cancer vaccines have been tested, mostly to treat tumors that have already spread, with little success.

"We've been studying vaccines in the setting of metastatic cancer
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