Hope as researchers develop breast cancer vaccine

A group of US researchers has developed a possible vaccine against breast cancer.

The researchers from Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville in Florida, believe they are successful after trials showed the injectable vaccine could not only kill cancer cells but also prevent them from growing.

According to reports by Forbes and Mayo Clinic, US nonprofit academic medical center, a woman in Florida, who was diagnosed with early breast cancer in March, and took part in the vaccine’s trial, was found to be cancer-free.

The woman had received seven injections - three in a row - in the arms and four spread over two weeks.

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Reports indicated that the vaccine is supposed to stimulate the immune system to provide the necessary defence against cancer cells, and works in the same way as a flu jab.

“If we are able to have the immune system trained to recognise abnormal cells, or cancerous (or) precancerous cells, then maybe the immune system can eliminate them before they even develop,” explained Dr Amy Degnim, a surgeon at Mayo clinic and one of the researchers in the vaccine trial programme.

Vaccine’s efficacy

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Part of the researchers’ work was evaluating the vaccine’s efficacy against HER2 protein, one of the proteins found in majority of women with noninvasive breast cancer. It is also known as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).

“DCIS is an abnormal growth of cells that occurs within the ducts of the breast, and these cells have the potential to grow into an invasive cancer,” stated Degnim in the breakthrough news published on October 7, by Mayo Clinic.

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Breast cancer is currently the leading type of cancer in Kenya in terms of fatalities. Up to 5,985 cases and 2,553 deaths were reported in Kenya last year.

Dr Keith Knutson from Mayo Clinic said the vaccine had also shown positive results against ovarian cancer.

"We haven’t seen any adverse events that are causing problems other than irritation in the area similar to a flu vaccination,” said Knutson as reported by Forbes.

Knutson said immunologists at Mayo Clinic already have two vaccines against two strains of breast cancer-Triple Negative and HER2 positive.

However, even with the surge in cancer cases, the vaccine may only be available for mass usage in about a decade due to Food and Drug Agency regulations, efficacy reasons and procedures to qualify the drugs.

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Knutson said it would take about three years and up to $20 million (Sh2 billion) before the next trial of the breast cancer vaccine begins.

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