September 16, 2016
1 min read

Combining vaccines, chemopreventive agents leads to ‘exciting advances’ in breast cancer

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A novel approach to breast cancer prevention - vaccines - could reduce the adverse events associated with current chemopreventive strategies like tamoxifen, according to Brian Czerniecki, MD, PhD, chair of the department of breast oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center.

Vaccines have already demonstrated promising results for the prevention of some cancers, including cervical cancer.

Brian Czerniecki

Brian Czerniecki

“There’s a virus that is the cause of the cancer and [researchers] can develop a vaccine against a virus to prevent a cancer,” Czerniecki told HemOnc Today.

While there are no known “organisms that are the etiology of the cause of breast cancer,” certain factors within a tumor that become elevated as a result of cancer development may serve as a new target for vaccines that would prevent the outgrowth of cancer cells.

“[Researchers] have designed vaccines that are personalized from the patient to target one of the factors that’s associated with early breast cancers,” Czerniecki said.

Combining anti-estrogen therapy with vaccines is one strategy that has been examined, which would shorten the span of time women would be required to take chemopreventive agents and result in fewer side effects.

A recent study conducted by Czerniecki and colleagues examined the use of neoadjuvant antiestrogen therapy in combination with anti–HER-2 dendritic cell vaccination and its effect on clinical and immune responses in women with breast cancer

The researchers assigned the neoadjuvant vaccine to 78 women with HER-2–positive ductal carcinoma in situ. This cohort included 34 women with ER-negative breast cancer. Of the other ER-positive women, 24 did not receive antiestrogen therapy and 20 received concurrent antiestrogen therapy.

The patients received the combination for 6 weeks prior to undergoing surgery, Czierniecki said. The combination therapy increased pathologic complete response rate and decreased subsequent breast events among the patient population.

“That’s an exciting advance in breast cancer prevention because it suggests that we may be able to use combinations of these things more effectively and get away from the side effects of the long-term chemopreventives,” he said.  – by Ryan McDonald

Disclosure: Czerniecki reports no relevant financial disclosures.