This vaccine (also known as E75), which stimulates the immune system to recognize the cancer as foreign, aims to prevent a recurrence in women who have already had one round of cancer. It is the furthest along of all the cancer vaccines.
This trial involved 165 breast cancer patients with HER2/neu tumors and lymph node involvement; 94 were vaccinated (initial shot plus boosters) and 71 served as controls.
Immunity was raised in all women who received the vaccine, but the biggest benefit was seen in those women with low and intermediate expression of HER2/neu or those who are not eligible for Herceptin, the drug currently used to treat this type of cancer.
After a follow-up of about 30 months, recurrence rates were similar between high overexpressors in both the vaccine and control groups (18.2. percent and 13.8 percent, respectively). But, there was a greater than 50 percent reduction in mortality rates.
In those with low or intermediate expression of the protein, results were more startling. Less than 11 percent of low HER2/neu expressors had a recurrence, versus 18.2 percent in the control group. The mortality rate in the vaccine group was zero, compared with 38 percent in the control group.
Visit the National Cancer Institute for more on breast cancer.
SOURCES: Linda Benavides, M.D., resident, general surgery, Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio; George Peoples, M.D., chief, surgical oncology, Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio, and director, Cancer Vaccine Development Program, U.S. Military Cancer Institute; Minetta Liu, M.D.,
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