Health & Science

Cleveland Clinic tests new vaccine aimed at preventing triple negative breast cancer

The vaccine has been successfully studied in lab animals for decades, but this is the very first human trial.

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A promising clinical trial at the Cleveland Clinic is testing a new vaccine which would prevent triple negative breast cancer, the most aggressive and lethal form of the disease.

Patient Jenni Davis from Lisbon, Ohio, is the first person in the country to be given the experimental vaccine, aimed at fighting cancer and keeping it from returning.

In February 2018, Davis found a lump on her breast. Tests soon led to a final diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer, a type of the disease which is notoriously hard to treat.

"When I was diagnosed, a lot of fear, a lot of questions," she said. "What if? What's going to happen?"

The mother of three was treated at the Cleveland Clinic and underwent a double mastectomy and several rounds of chemo and radiation.

After her treatment was over, she heard about the hospital's breast cancer vaccine trial and immediately enrolled.

"I was just so fearful of recurrence that I wanted something so badly. So, to me, it wasn't something I had to go back and forth with," Davis said.

"The vaccine has been under research for over 20 years," Dr. Amit Kumar, CEO of Anixa Biosciences, said.

Kumar added that the shot has been successfully studied in lab animals for decades, but this is the very first human trial.

The vaccine works by training the immune system to target and destroy cells that produce a milk protein that appears in breast cancer cells, stopping those cells from growing.

"The immune system should be able to destroy those early cancer cells as they arise, so those cancer cells never have a chance to become a large tumor mass," Kumar said. "We expect that within five years, the vaccine will be available for people who have had breast cancer and are in danger of recurrence."

After three rounds of the vaccine with no serious complications, Davis is hopeful. The patient remains cancer-free and excited about the possibility this new development could hold for others.

"Down the road, you know, to potentially wipe out triple negative breast cancer all together is amazing, and I'm so thankful I get to be a part of it," Davis said.

The early results of the trial are encouraging, and while doctors are currently focused on triple negative breast cancer, they believe this vaccine could prevent other types of breast cancer in the future.

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