Immunotherapy is a fast-growing and necessary component in the fight against cancer. What this does is essentially use the patient’s own immune system to fight against the spread and existence of cancer. Moffitt Cancer Center is currently working on a vaccine that would help women who are in the early stages of breast cancer.
They’re doing this by targeting the HER2 protein, which tends to be what leads to breast cancer. This HER2 protein is associated with a fast-spreading cancer as well as poor prognosis overall. It’s by aggressively targeting this malicious protein that the experts hope to stop the spread of breast cancer before it gets bad.
It’s been already demonstrated that immune cells are less able to recognize the HER2 protein the farther along that the breast cancer progresses. This is when the cancer progresses into a more advanced and invasive stage.
All of this basically suggests that the best way to combat the HER2 protein is to make sure that immune cells are better able to recognize and target it early on in the life of the cancer. If this is able to be achieved, then the prognosis will drastically improve.
The team of experts developed a vaccine specifically for this purpose. It directly works by allowing the immune system to recognize the HER2 protein on the breast cancer cells early.
This approach involves harvesting some of the immune cells in the patient and then making a totally personalied vaccine for each patient. Just as every person is unique, so too must the vaccine be in order for the patient’s natural immune cells to work at eradicating the cancer.
In order to figure out if this vaccine was effective, the team of experts picked a number of early stage, HER2 protein-expressing cancer patients and injected them with their own personal vaccine either into the lymph node, the breast or both.
The study then showed that the patients tolerated the vaccine well, and that there was only a small amount of toxicities as a result of the vaccine. The most common effects that happened were chills, injection site reactions, and fatigue. The results also positively showed that the immune systems of the patients were stimulted in nearly all of the cases.
In fact, 80 percent of those who were vaccinated showed an immune response that was attacking the site of the cancer. This happened nearly across the board, regardless of the injection site or any other factor.
Moffitt then explored the effectiveness of the vaccine by figuring out who had detectable signs of the cancer after this procedure was done. It’s reported that a number of the patients achieved a complete response and that those who had a complete response had a higher immune response in their lymph nodes. All of these results suggest that the vaccine is working exceptionally well at curbing this disease and making sure that an early stage case doesn’t progress to late stage breast cancer.
It’s by targeting the cancerous cells using the patient’s own immune cells that a significant amount of progress is able to be made in the fight against breast cancer. Time will only tell how effective this vaccine is going into the future, but its early results are promising.
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