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Breast Cancer Vaccines Look Promising
Date:6/26/2008

ificantly longer," she said. "People who responded lived 32 months versus a median of 17 [for those who did not respond]. Three of the women who were responders have lived more than three years."

Among the questions that remain, however, said Domchek, is this: "Were those women going to do well no matter what we did? Is immune response just a marker for a healthier patient?"

Other research on breast cancer vaccines expected to be presented at the meeting include:

  • A study that focused on breast cancer patients with HER-2-positive tumors (for whom relapse is common after treatment) treated with a combination of vaccine plus an anti-cancer drug. Dr. Lupe Salazar, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Washington, in Seattle, and her team sequenced the HER-2 protein and put pieces of it into a vaccine. They gave it to patients, along with the anti-cancer drug Herceptin. The combination helped to generate significant levels of T-cell immunity specific to the HER-2 cells, she said. As of now, "all eight [women] have done this," she said. The study will eventually include 52 women.
  • A study that uses immunostimulatory peptides as a vaccine looked at the best way to deliver them. Dr. Davorka Messmer, an assistant project scientist at the Moores Cancer Center at the University of California San Diego, and her team tested a vaccine using nanoparticles loaded with the HER2 peptide that carry an immune system-stimulating peptide, called Hp91, on the outside or the inside. "We found it more potent if the immunostimulatory peptide was put on the surface of the nanoparticle," he said. The study was conducted in animals.

While breast cancer vaccines have been studied for at least 30 years, they have yet to make a real difference in the lives of patients, said Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. That's not to say they won't someday, he added.

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