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Posted on: October 19, 2019 at 6:28 am
Last updated: December 2, 2019 at 8:02 pm

Mayo Clinic researchers have revealed some promising news about the breast cancer vaccine they’re currently studying in clinical trials.

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Ms. Lee Mercker, of Florida was diagnosed with an early non-invasive type of breast cancer in March of this year.

Mercker was diagnosed with stage zero ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), which means that her medical team found abnormal cells in the lining of the breast milk duct, but the cells had not spread to any other tissue.

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According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, “Ductal Carcinoma In Situ is very early cancer that is highly treatable, but if it’s left untreated or undetected, it can spread into the surrounding breast tissue.” (1)

Mercker was given the option of a lumpectomy, a mastectomy, or because her cancer had been caught so early, the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial for a cancer vaccine being developed.

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“I signed on the dotted line that day,” Mercker told Fox News reporters.

The clinical trial, led by Keith L. Knutson, Ph.D., involved a series of injections that were designed to stimulate the body’s immune system in order to improve the chances of eliminating cancerous cells on its own.

“If we’re able to have the immune system trained to recognize abnormal cells, or cancerous (or) precancerous cells, then maybe the immune system can eliminate them before they even develop,” Mayo Clinic Surgeon and cancer vaccine researcher, Dr. Amy Degnim said on the Mayo Clinic Minute.

“They always took your blood, you had a physical, they’d make your shot right there on the spot for you,” Mercker describes. “It was three shots, all in a row, alternating arms, four shots, two weeks apart.” (2)

After the 12 week trial, Mercker underwent a mastectomy as a precaution for her own safety and so researchers could analyze the results of the clinical trial. (2)

“It is reasonable to say that we could have a vaccine within eight years that may be available to patients through their pharmacy or their doctor,” said Knutson in an interview. (3)

His optimism comes from experience. He cited already in progress Mayo Clinic studies which showed success for two other forms of cancer vaccines against triple-negative breast cancer and HER2 positive breast cancer. (3)

“We know that they’re safe. We know that they stimulate the immune system [to fight cancer],” Knutson said in an interview. “We know that they have had a positive impact on ovarian and breast cancer. We haven’t seen any adverse events that are causing problems other than irritation in the area similar to a flu vaccination. Now we have to convince the FDA, through solid, rigorous clinical trials that we’re seeing what we’re seeing.” (3)

Knutson’s team estimates their vaccine could be available to the public within eight years. They hope it could help make breast cancer a much less devastating disease.

“We think that the use of vaccines in combination with early detection, appropriate therapies to minimize disease may ultimately lead to reductions in morbidity recurrence in at least breast and ovarian cancers with these vaccines,” Knutson said. (3)

Currently, breast cancer has the second-highest mortality rate among American women, after lung cancer. It is the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer among women, second to skin cancer. (4) 62% of breast cancer diagnoses are made before cancer cells have spread to neighboring tissue. (5)

Related: A Small Tampa Company is Working on a Big Breakthrough: A Cancer Vaccine

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and is for information only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition and/or current medication. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.

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Maria Sykes
Team Writer
Marie Sykes is an Ontario based writer with a background in research and a love for holistic wellness. She's especially interested in boosting awareness for women's health issues. Once a shunner of gyms, Marie has found an appreciation for weight training and HIIT circuits. She enjoys trying cuisine from all over the world, and she also enjoys not caring two cents what other people think her body should look like.

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