Over the past few years, several genetic markers of breast cancer have been identified, such as BRCA, estrogen receptors, and HER-2/neu, all of which have been known to predict the severity of disease, recurrence and overall survival. Reasearchers are now using these findings to develop vaccines targeting these genetic markers.
In a study presented during the recently held meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research’s Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research in Boston, scientists evaluated the potentials of a new vaccine targeting the HER-2/neu over-expression in a type of early stage breast cancer known as DCIS (ductal carcinomas in situ, or early stage cancer formation in the breast’s milk ducts).
Patients with HER-2/neu overexpression were given a therapy of dendritic cells (DC, which work with the B- and T-cells to trigger immune responses) that were treated with HER-2/neu to evoke an immune response. The participants received four weekly vaccinations into normal lymph nodes in their groins and were evaluated both pre- and post-vaccination for immune response, level of HER-2/neu expression, and cell infiltrates.
Results indicate that the positive response in nearly all patients, half of which showed markedly reduced levels of HER-2/neu expression following vaccination.
“The results demonstrate for the first time that this DC vaccination may have significant clinical activity against certain types of breast cancer,” said Brian J. Czerniecki, M.D., of the University of Pennsylvania, and lead author of the study. “We are confident that targeted treatment with this vaccine may effectively fight not only DCIS, but may extend to prevention of breast cancer entirely.”