Four-Week Vaccination Regimen Knocks Out Early Breast Cancer Tumors, Penn Researchers Report


January 30, 2012

Penn Medicine News Release

Majority of Patients Treated Develop Strong, Lasting Immune Responses

PHILADELPHIA -- Researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine and the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania report that a short course of vaccination with an anti-HER2 dendritic cell vaccine made partly from the patient’s own cells triggers a complete tumor eradication in nearly 20 percent of women with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), an early breast cancer. More than 85 percent of patients treated appear to have a sustained immune response after vaccination, which may reduce their risk of developing a more invasive cancer in the future. The results of the study were published online this month of Cancer and in the January issue of the Journal of Immunotherapy.

The researchers say the results provide new evidence that therapeutic breast cancer vaccines may be most effective for early, localized disease, and when the treatment attacks a protein critical to cancer cell survival.

“I think these data more than prove that vaccination works in situations where the target is right,” says the study’s leader, Brian Czerniecki, MD, PhD, surgical director of the Rena Rowan Breast Center and Surgical Director of the Immunotherapy Program for the Abramson Cancer Center. “Previous vaccines targeted tissue antigens that were expressed on the cancer cells, but were not necessary for tumor survival. So a vaccine response would cause the tumor to just stop expressing the antigen and the tumor would be fine. Here we’re going after HER2/neu, which is critical for survival of early breast cancers. If we knock it out with the immune response, we cripple the tumor cells.” Read More

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