First patient in breast cancer vaccine trial shares her experience

Breast cancer vaccine in the works
Published: Oct. 6, 2023 at 6:03 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - Can a shot help prevent cancer? You’ve heard of a vaccine for covid, the flu and all sorts of illnesses and now there is a vaccine for cancer.

Right now, this vaccine is being tested for breast cancer patients to make sure the cancer doesn’t come back.

Jennifer Davis is a breast cancer survivor. She was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast cancer in 2018.

“It’s very scary and a lot of fear,” Davis said. “You know, I have three kids. They were in high school at the time. So, it was just the fear of the unknown.”

Triple Negative Breast cancer can be more aggressive than other types. She had chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, surgery and radiation.

“They did get clear margins at the time of surgery and the radiation was to treat those cells that could not be seen,” Davis said.

Even though the cancer was not detectable after treatment, she worried about cancer coming back. Doctor is the CEO of Anixa Biosciences. It is testing out a vaccine to prevent breast cancer.

“Statistics show that 42% of those women {who have Triple Negative Breast caner] will recur,” Dr. Kumar said. “And when you have a recurrence, it’s usually within a five year period. When it recurs, it tends to be metastatic meaning it spreads to other parts of the body. It’s much more aggressive.

Davis enrolled in the clinical trial at the Cleveland Clinic.

“It’s a three dose series,” Davis said. “You get one every two weeks. I had lab work done prior to each injection and then I had two more appointments where I had lab work done and then that was it.”

Dr. Kumar says researchers have identified a protein that can make women more susceptible to breast cancer.

“We could train the immune system to destroy cells making that protein after a woman is no longer going to have children,” Dr. Kumar said. “The only cells in the body that will make that protein are breast cancer cells. "

Davis says the side effects were minimal.

“The only thing I had were lumps at the injection site,” Davis said.

It’s now been five years since her cancer diagnosis, which is a big milestone.

“Typically, if you don’t reoccur within five years, I hate to use the word cure, but in general, they’re cured,” Dr. Kumar said.

Davis said her children are all in their 20s now and she looks forward to seeing their life milestones.

“I hope I get to see them get married,” Davis said. “I would love to have grandkids and just everything.”

Right now the clinical trial is only happening at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. It is currently accepting more patients. Researchers hope to move to phase two in the coming years and have this trial happen in more cities. They are also encouraging people of minorities to enroll because currently they have very few in the study.