Cancer Center Special Report
Can We Expect a Cancer Vaccine?
Researchers Work to Develop a Vaccine for Advanced Breast CancerImagine: a simple, non-toxic injection that can stimulate the body to fight cancer cells. While a cancer vaccine might seem like a distant pipe dream, researchers at the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Cancer Center are actively investigating a breast cancer vaccine.
“Breast cancer therapy has come a long way in the past decade or so,” says Sonia Sugg, MD, Medical College of Wisconsin surgical oncologist. “The survival rate for breast cancer has improved — due, we think, in large part to advances in early detection, chemotherapy and radiation. However, people who have cancers that present at more advanced stages still have a fairly high chance of recurrence. And often, when cancer recurs, therapy is effective, but not curative. So, we’re always looking for new and different types of treatment, especially those that will be well tolerated by patients.”
The search for new therapies led Dr. Sugg to the laboratory, where she and colleague Joel Shilyansky, MD, Medical College of Wisconsin pediatric surgeon, are working to create a breast cancer vaccine based on patients’ own cancer cells. They are hopeful the vaccine will trigger the body to mount an immune response to recurrent disease.
While Dr. Sugg is quick to point out her study is currently a laboratory experiment, preliminary results have been encouraging. “We’ve been able to show some immune responses to breast cancer in the laboratory,” Dr. Sugg says. “It’s exciting, because this type of therapy holds promise as a relatively non-toxic option for patients. And it would be different from conventional chemo or radiation therapy. We hope to give women another choice in the future.”
Such cutting-edge research is par for the course for Medical College of Wisconsin researchers. Physicians are constantly investigating new treatments, technologies and therapeutic applications. In fact, Medical College of Wisconsin researchers received more than $10 million in grant monies for cancer research in 2004. That research often translates directly into improved clinical care for cancer patients at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin.
Source: Cancer Center Special Report 2005/06