Vaccine hope for breast cancer patients
Exclusive: A vaccine for breast cancer is about to be trialled by Australian researchers to stop the cancer returning and could eventually be used in other common cancers.
The jab will not prevent cancer in the first place but will be given to people who have already been diagnosed with the disease.
The hope is the vaccine will prompt the patient's own immune cells to recognise and eliminate cancer cells.
And it could be personalised and built on samples from the patient's own tumour so if the cancer returns the immune system would fight it off.
The jab will also be trialled in combination with immunotherapy drugs to see whether it enhances these treatments by targeting the right cancer cells.
Professor Dr Roberta Mazzieri from the University of Queensland has been awarded a grant from the National Breast Cancer Foundation of Australia to test a series of vaccines for triple negative breast cancer and brain-metastatic breast cancer in mice.
Cancerous tumours spread because they hide from the immune system and the vaccine would provide information to the immune system so it knows how to find the cancer cells, Professor Mazzieri said.
"The project is exploring what is the best information to provide to the immune system and the best way to deliver that information," she said.
The research is the forerunner to human clinical trials which could start in the next three to four years.
The project is one of 16 game-changing research grants worth a combined $10 million awarded by the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF).
Other projects include a Garvan Institute project to investigate the JNK protein in breast cancer which could be targeted with a drug to stop the growth of metastatic cancer cells.
The University of Melbourne is developing a new online tool that will estimate a woman's personal risk of a second breast cancer to help her make a fully informed decision about whether to undergo a double mastectomy.
Professor John Hopper from the University of Melbourne has been given a grant to explore whether digital mammograms can improve breast screening by identifying risk factors including breast density.
National Breast Cancer Foundation CEO Sarah Hosking said the projects would help the foundation's push to eliminate deaths from breast cancer by 2030.
"To our supporters, we want to thank you, now more than ever, for your continued contributions which are making a real impact in breast cancer research," she said.
Around 15 per cent of women with breast cancer have triple negative breast cancer yet it accounts for about one in four of all breast cancer-related deaths.
The cancer is not sensitive to the molecular-targeted drugs used to treat other types of breast cancer such as hormone therapy and HER2-targeting drugs that's why the vaccine would be a key breakthrough.
Reality star Ryan Gallagher's television "marriage" fell apart in Married At First Sight and he conquered his fear of heights jumping from a helicopter and a cliff top in I'm a Celebrity Get Me out of Here but his toughest life challenge has been dealing with his mum's breast cancer.
Vicky Gallagher was first diagnosed with breast cancer when Ryan was five.
"The second time she had it I was 15, the third time I was 25, the fourth I was 30 and it came back again when I was 31," he told News Corp.
"I think like anything it's hard on your emotions, I try to block it out by keeping myself busy."
Gallagher is a big supporter of the National Breast Cancer Foundation's goal of eliminating breast cancer by 2030.
"I don't want to see another five-year-old kid have to go through that in the future and no mother should have to watch their five-year-old kid go through it either," he said.
Vicky Gallagher is aged 66 and even though her cancer has returned multiple times she's still working night shifts as a nurse at the Bourke Street Health Service in Goulburn.
"We live on a property and its sort of my social club even though we work hard. I like to mix," she told News Corp.
The prospect of a vaccine that could prevent cancer returning has immediate appeal to Mrs Gallagher who has had multiple surgeries, and chemotherapy and radiotherapy to control her cancer.
"I'd give it a go," she said.
"All my nursing life I've had something to do with cancer patients and especially where I am now," she said.
"They are making progress in a lot of areas all the time and as long as they keep researching we'll beat it," she said.
Brisbane mum Karen Allen has experienced the fear a breast cancer diagnosis brings.
She was aged just 33 and had two toddlers when she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in 2000.
"A vaccine would be amazing because more and more we are seeing younger women with triple negative cancer detected," the emergency department nurse said.
"My sons were two and four when I was diagnosed and all I kept seeing was their futures and me not being part of it," she said.
"I didn't want them to see me die, then it kicked in that I want to fight and get better and it was a real sense of achievement to do that," she said.
"At the moment it's really limited what we can do for triple negative breast cancer so anything we can do is amazing."
Originally published as Vaccine hope for breast cancer patients