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Hope for Breast Cancer Affected: A New Vaccine Shows Success

Update Date: Dec 01, 2014 02:51 PM EST

In a discovery that could be termed a boon for millions of women with breast cancer, researchers have successfully tested a cancer vaccine that boosts the body's ability to fight the disease.

The vaccine was developed at the Washington University's School of Medicine, The Times of India reported. It works by training the body's immune system to target a protein called Mammoglobin-A, a protein exclusively produced by breast tissue in high levels under cancerous conditions. The protein is found expressed in 80 percent of breast cancer cases.

"Being able to target mammaglobin is exciting because it is expressed broadly in up to 80 percent of breast cancers, but not at meaningful levels in other tissues. In theory, this means we could treat a large number of breast cancer patients with potentially fewer side effects," said senior author William E Gillanders, in a press release.

Though researchers conducted first phase clinical trials to assess safety of the vaccine, they also found that it slowed cancer's progress. The study involving 14 women with metastatic breast cancer showed that cancer did not progress in half the women after one-year of follow up.

The study showed that though immunity of subjects was lowered due to cancer and chemotherapy, the vaccine successfully helped the body in posting an immune response, Business Standard reported.

"Despite the weakened immune systems in these patients, we did observe a biologic response to the vaccine while analyzing immune cells in their blood samples. That's very encouraging. We also saw preliminary evidence of improved outcome, with modestly longer progression-free survival," said Gillanders adding that the vaccine cannot be used when mammaglobin is not overexpressed.

"If we give the vaccine to patients at the beginning of treatment, the immune systems should not be compromised like in patients with metastatic disease. We also will be able to do more informative immune monitoring than we did in this preliminary trial. Now that we have good evidence that the vaccine is safe, we think testing it in newly diagnosed patients will give us a better idea of the effectiveness of the therapy," he added.

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