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A new vaccine could prevent breast cancer and be available within the next 10 years, according to new research from Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida.

"[The vaccine] has a combination of antigens that are designed to prevent breast cancer, but that also have the potential to prevent other cancers as well," Dr. Keith Knutson, investigator at Mayo Clinic, told Global Citizen. "It generates antibodies and T cells that are specific for the breast cancer … Once we generate that immunity, it can last for long periods of time, and circulate in the blood. And in some cases, it can last for years."

The researchers have already created vaccines that would protect against recurrences of triple-negative breast cancer and HER2 positive breast cancer, and they are working on another against ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) — three different types of breast cancer.

The vaccines work by sparking a response from the body’s immune system and encouraging it to attack and kill cancer cells.

Knutson is the principal investigator for a $13-million federal grant to test the initial vaccine that was developed to prevent the recurrence of triple-negative breast cancer, but the researchers have since moved on to looking at how they could prevent cancer altogether.

To do this, they are working with the National Breast Cancer Coalition.

The three vaccines that look to prevent recurrences are somewhat easier to tackle, as the researchers know which type of cancer they are looking to prevent. 

The new vaccine that would prevent breast cancer in general and will therefore require a different approach.

“When we’re trying to prevent breast cancer, we don’t know what kind of breast cancer they’re going to get, because there’s multiple different kinds,” Knutson said. “And so, we have to have a more expansive vaccine, in order to target.”

Phase 1 clinical trials in humans for the cancer-prevention vaccine will start testing its safety in 2020. 

The other vaccines are already in phase 2, in which researchers are evaluating their impact on people who have had cancer previously, but who are currently cancer free. This phase will also educate the team on how they might need to design their phase 3 trials, if another phase is needed.

The vaccine certification process is a long one and these plans are still in their early phases, but Knutson is hopeful.

“We just finished up one study of a HER2 new vaccine … and that study showed us that greater than 90% of people responded,” he said. “We are confident that it can be used in the vast majority of people.”

The fact that these vaccines are being developed and that researchers like Knutson feel hopeful is significant. 

There were 2 million new cases of breast cancer in 2018 alone, so a vaccine that could arm the world against something as big as cancer could be big news in ensuring good health and well-being for all.


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