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Study: Vaccine for Breast, Ovarian Cancer Has Potential

Researchers Say a Breast Cancer Patient Who Got the Vaccine Is Now Cancer-Free

Testing the Vaccine continued...

Among the breast cancer patients, overall, however, the median time (half more, half less) before the cancer progressed was 2.5 months. The median overall survival was 13.7 months. Four had stable disease, defined as the cancer neither growing nor shrinking.

Among the ovarian cancer patients, the median time to progression was two months and the median overall survival was 15 months. Three had stable disease.

The follow-up was up to 37 months.

Side effects were mild, Gulley says. Most common was a reaction at the injection site, which was temporary. Two patients had musculoskeletal pain. One had anemia. Some got fevers, he says, which were relieved with fever reducers.

Interpreting the Findings

"The question is, why did we see this result in one patient?" he says. "All we can get from this trial are hints."

The woman, who remains disease-free, had a previous treatment with a different treatment vaccine. "That might have primed her immune system," Gulley speculates. She also had only one regimen of chemotherapy, perhaps keeping her immune system stronger.

Ideally, the vaccine may need to be given earlier in the course of the disease, he says. Further research should focus on predicting which patients would benefit most.

The PANVAC vaccine is one of several cancer vaccines being studied. It is a therapeutic or treatment vaccine, given after the disease occurs.

Other cancer vaccines being studied are preventive or prophylactic. They are meant to prevent cancer in those who are cancer-free.

Much more research is needed on the PANVAC vaccine for breast and ovarian cancer, Gulley says. It's difficult at this point to predict costs. However, he expects costs will not approach those for Provenge, the pricey treatment vaccine for prostate cancer approved by the FDA in 2010.

Provenge costs $93,000 for the one-month, three-dose treatment. Medicare covers it.

PANVAC ''is an off-the-shelf vaccine," Gulley says. "It's been developed at the National Cancer Institute. It's easier to make and logistically much simpler than the prostate cancer vaccine, which requires manipulation of the blood with each patient."

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