Researchers have obtained funding to see if new cancer vaccines can stop the spread of breast cancer to other organs or come back at a later stage.
The cancer immunotherapy team at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research has received a quarter of a million dollars in funding, from Health Research Council (HRC), Breast Cancer Cure and Breast Cancer Foundation NZ, to investigate to feed.
One of the key areas that needed improvement was the occurrence of late recurrences, Malaghan Institute researcher Robert Weinkove said.
"In breast cancer this can happen many years after the first treatment of a patient Metastasis – the spread of the cancer cells from the place where they first formed – is a devastating event."
The use of a targeted vaccine to induce an immune system response in tissues where cancer was at risk of recurrence might stop, he said.
"We have no better idea of what could make them useful," he said.
"It seems that they are not very useful in people with a very active disease, but they play a role where perhaps people have had a first treatment and we are trying to prevent late recurrences."
Dr. Weinkove said through models that researchers could see that early studies showed that the vaccines induced immune responses to cancers such as HER2, which is a cancer that tests positive for a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2.
HER2 was the target of breast cancer drugs such as Herceptin and was expressed in approximately 20-30 percent of breast cancers, Dr. Weinkove.
"Without targeting ther apy, HER2 is associated with an increased risk of recurrence.
" We are particularly interested in immune responses to HER2 in various organs, to help determine how these vaccines are best used. "
The research builds on a collaboration with Victoria University of Wellington and the Breast Cancer Foundation funding for the development of synthetic breast cancer vaccines