For the first time in history, human trials are set to begin for a possible vaccine to prevent breast cancer.
With breast cancer being the world’s most prevalent type of cancer and the leading cause of cancer deaths, this is promising news indeed!
Vaccine for Preventing Breast Cancer
Treatment for breast cancer can be quite costly and there’s no assurance that the patient can be healed from the condition, especially in advance stages.
That’s why prevention, as the adage goes, is so much better than cure. Yet there appears to be no certain way to avoid getting breast cancer.
But this might soon change with a vaccine that has gone through two decades of pre-clinical research.
The first of its kind, this breast cancer vaccine targets α-lactalbumin, the protein that’s commonly expressed by one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer: triple-negative breast cancer.
According to the primary inventor of the vaccine, Dr. Vincent Tuohy, Ph.D., α-lactalbumin is “retired” by the body after lactation. So, they extensively studied whether activating this protein can be a safe and effective way of preventing tumors in mice.
“What we’re trying to do is what we call primary prevention,” he explained.
“It’s actually preventing the disease from occurring—(like) it was never there to begin with. We’re not trying to prevent recurrence. We’re trying to prevent the emergence of the tumor and prevent it from ever happening.”
Results of the pre-clinical research was promising: not only can a single vaccination prevent breast tumors in mice, it also appeared to inhibit the growth of existing tumors.
The trial phase is set to begin, with 24 patients with early-stage triple-negative breast cancer. These patients are currently tumor-free after completing treatment in the past 3 years, but have a high risk of reoccurrence.
For the vaccine trial, these patients will receive three doses, each two weeks apart. Then, they will be monitored for any immune system response and side effects.
The trial will also continue to monitor the patients to test if the vaccine worked in preventing them from developing breast cancer again.
Currently, the upcoming vaccine has limited applications and might not work with other tumor types. But it could pave the way to further research for other cancer vaccines.
“If successful, these vaccines have the potential to transform the way we control adult-onset cancers and enhance life expectancy in a manner similar to the impact that the childhood vaccination program has had,” Tuohy declared.
What’s a Triple-Negative Breast Cancer?
Triple-negative breast cancer is a type of breast cancer that tests negative for the following:
- Estrogen receptors
- Progesterone receptors
- Excess HER2 protein
It’s a rare type of cancer.