Triple-negative breast cancer is a rare tumor that does not depend on estrogen, progesterone, or HER2 hormones, like other forms of the disease. It is very aggressive and has a high mortality and recurrence rate because it does not respond to conventional therapies targeting these hormones.
Recently, the Cleveland Clinic has announced the beginning of a new vaccine trial that specifically targets triple-negative breast cancers.
“Long term, we are hoping that this can be a true preventive vaccine that would be administered to healthy women to prevent them from developing triple-negative breast cancer, the form of breast cancer for which we have the least effective treatments.”– Principal investigator G. Thomas Budd, M.D. (Cleveland Clinic’s Taussig Cancer Institute).
The vaccine increases immune response towards a breast protein called α-lactalbumin, which naturally exists in lactation tissues but also occurs in triple-negative breast cancers. This way, the body can form antibodies against α-lactalbumin, destroying cancer cells when they just start to form.
The research is based on a pre-clinical trial published in Nature Medicine by Dr. Vincent Tuohy, who is an immunologist at Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute.
In the pre-clinical phase, Dr. Tuohy researched the drug’s safety in mouse models. He found that the drug was indeed safe, and it really did prevent the animals from developing breast cancer tissue. Moreover, it slowed progression in already existing tumors.
Fighting breast cancer
Now, with FDA approval and funding by the U.S Department of Defense, the researchers are beginning a phase 1 trial. They plan to recruit 18 to 24 volunteers who previously survived triple-negative breast cancer and are susceptible to recurrence. The volunteers will receive three vaccine doses at 2-week intervals, after which, they will be closely monitored. The study will run till around September 2022.
The researchers also plan to hold a subsequent trial with healthy women who have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene and are susceptible to cancer.
“This vaccine strategy has the potential to be applied to other tumor types,”said Dr. Tuohy. “Our translational research program focuses on developing vaccines that prevent diseases we confront with age, like breast, ovarian and endometrial cancers. If successful, these vaccines have the potential to transform the way we control adult-onset cancers and enhance life expectancy in a manner similar to the impact that the childhood vaccination program has had,”
Source: The Cleveland Clinic