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Vaccines for Ovarian and Breast Cancer in Early Trials
Date:1/11/2008

As with all early trials, the outcome isn't assured. "We need to keep trying," Coukos said. "One trial will not provide all the answers we need."

There were some 22,430 new cases of ovarian cancer diagnosed in the United States in 2007, and approximately 15,280 deaths from the disease, according to American Cancer Society estimates. In most cases of ovarian cancer, the disease has already reached late stage and spread beyond the ovaries before it is detected and diagnosed. Because the cancer has spread to other parts of the body -- metastasized -- the prognosis is typically not good, Coukos said.

After surgery and chemotherapy, late-stage ovarian cancer usually recurs in 18 months to 20 months. When it does reappear, it is considered incurable and usually results in death, even with aggressive chemotherapy, Coukos noted.

In another presentation at the meeting, Dr. Leisha A. Emens, an assistant professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins University, discussed her work on a new therapeutic vaccine to fight breast cancer.

Of the six types of breast cancer, the vaccine is designed to treat HER-2/neu disease, which is particularly aggressive. The vaccine is designed to marshal the body's immune response to fight the cancer, she said.

Emens has also found that combining the vaccine with currently used chemotherapy drugs such as cyclophosphamide and doxorubicin increased the vaccine's effectiveness. In the current trial, women with advanced breast cancer are receiving combinations of vaccine and chemotherapy.

Emens said she's also working on a vaccine that, along with chemotherapy, would prevent blood vessels from feeding the cancer, essentially starving and killing the cancer cells.

"We have enrolled eight folks and have seen evidence for immunity," Emens said. "It is important that now that we are on the verge of developing immune-based and gene-therapy-based approaches for treating cancer to in
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