"Researchers from Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida are developing a new treatment for breast cancer in the form of an 'immunology vaccine' that enhances your immune system, allowing your body to use its best weapon to kill those cancer cells," reports Shape.com.
According to the study, supported with funds from the National Cancer Institute and published in Clinical Cancer Research, the treatment doesn't prevent someone from getting breast cancer; but it helps treat the big C in its early stages. In this case, research showed it would help early-stage breast cancer patients who have HER2 positive disease.
Moffitt Cancer Center explains that the HER2 protein is "overexpressed in nearly 25 percent of all breast cancer tumors and is associated with aggressive disease and poor prognosis." Moffitt researchers, led by physician-scientist Brian J. Czerniecki, M.D., Ph.D., have previously shown that immune cells are less able to recognize and target cancer cells that express HER2 as breast cancer progresses into a more advanced and invasive stage.
Shape.com explains: "[The treatment] uses your own immune system to attack a specific protein attached to cancer cells. This allows your body to kill the cancer cells without killing your healthy cells along with them, which is a common occurrence in traditional chemotherapy. Plus, you get all the cancer-fighting benefits but without the nasty side effects like hair loss, mental fog, and extreme nausea."
The treatment still has side effects, although they are no longer as harsh and debilitating. Also reporting on the study, EurekAlert.org states: "The most common adverse events were fatigue, injection site reactions, and chills."
More importantly, the treatment was found to stimulate an immune response in majority of the patients. Eighty percent of patients had a detectable immune response in areas where the cancer is most likely to spread first (peripheral blood and the lymph node).
More research needs to be done, but this development definitely gives the fight against breast cancer a big boost.