Vac­cine presents dual hope for can­cer

The Cairns Post - - NATION - SUE DUNLEVY

A VAC­CINE that treats one of the most com­mon forms of breast can­cer could one day also be used to pre­vent an­other form of the dis­ease.

The ther­apy be­ing de­vel­oped by an Aus­tralian com­pany stim­u­lates the body’s own im­mune sys­tem to fight the can­cer and stud­ies have pro­duced im­proved sur­vival rates in mice.

The vac­cine will help the one in four women whose breast can­cer over­ex­presses the HER2 pro­tein as well as HER2 gas­tric can­cer pa­tients.

Over one mil­lion cases of gas­tric can­cer are di­ag­nosed each year, mostly in Asia, and the five-year sur­vival rate is just 30 per cent.

Euro­pean tri­als have shown the vac­cine to be safe and it is now be­ing tri­alled in Asia on gas­tric can­cer pa­tients.

While re­searchers hope it will help breast can­cer pa­tients, they can’t trial it on th­ese pa­tients in Aus­tralia yet.

This is be­cause stan­dard use of the ex­pen­sive drug Her­ceptin treat­ment here would con­flict with prov­ing the vac­cine works.

Med­i­cal Univer­sity of Vi­enna re­searcher Pro­fes­sor Ur­sula Wie­der­mann is the co-in­ven­tor of the HER-vaxx.

If it works it will most likely be used in com­bi­na­tion with chemo­ther­apy, ra­di­a­tion and Her­ceptin to im­prove sur­vival, she said.

The idea is pa­tients with newly di­ag­nosed HER2 pos­i­tive can­cers would get the vac­cine be­fore re­ceiv­ing other treat­ments.

It would stim­u­late the body’s im­mune sys­tem to fight the can­cer, be­fore other stan­dard treat­ments are loaded on top to kill it off.

Re­peat vac­ci­na­tions would most likely be needed during the pa­tients’ life­time.

“It’s like tetanus, you need a booster vac­cine to keep the mem­ory of the im­mune sys­tem ac­ti­vated,” she said.

Even­tu­ally it could be used to try and pre­vent can­cer, Pro­fes­sor Wie­der­mann said.

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