Dr. Czerniecki, of the University of Pennsylvania, recently presented his research involving the treatment of Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) at the American Association for Cancer Research’s Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research.
Multiple genetic targets have been discovered that may help fight breast cancer, including BRCA, estrogen receptors, and HER-2/neu, all of which have been known to predict the severity of disease, recurrence and overall survival. Developing novel therapies that target these specific genetic variances may be extremely beneficial in preventing breast cancer for many women.
In this study, researchers investigated a potential vaccine that targets HER-2/neu over-expression in early stage breast cancer, known as DCIS (ductal carcinomas in situ, or early stage cancer formation in the breast’s milk ducts). It is estimated at 50-60 percent of DCIS is directly related to HER-2/neu over-expression.
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.
The researchers found that most patients responded well to the vaccination. Nearly all patients (11 of 12) exhibited an initial immune response (shown by the presence of anti-HER-2/neu specific CD4+ T cells), and many of the patients developed protein antibodies to fight the HER-2/neu cells. Patients began to build up reserves of white blood cells following treatment and seemed to show long-term immune responses to HER-2/neu as a result of the therapy. Of the 12 study participants, six showed markedly reduced levels of HER-2/neu expression after the vaccination, and as a result, the investigators also noted an improvement in their severity of their disease.
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