Doctors hope new breast cancer vaccine will save lives

In In The News by Barbara Jacoby

By: Brittany Jones


Part of a nearly $13.3 million Department of Defense grant will be used in our area to develop a vaccine for breast cancer. Currently, 280 patients are participating in the trial.

Dr. Keith Knutson has been working with breast cancer patients for about ten years.

“In addition to me being touched, the burden breast cancer has on society keeps me going,” said Knutson.

Knutson is constantly working in the lab at the Mayo Clinic. He said they test everything from cancer cells to developing vaccines.

“This could potentially be one of the biggest breakthroughs,” said Knutson.

The grant is headed to the Mayo Clinic and Tapimmune Inc. will provide a possible vaccination for women with a deadly form of breast cancer.

It’s called triple negative form breast cancer, one that currently is treated only by surgery and chemotherapy.

Knutson said 15 percent to 20 percent of more than 200,000 patients have cancer.

“If we can stop it early dead in its tracks early in the course of the disease, we can prevent a lot of the problems,” said Knutson.

The vaccine would be injected into the skin with fragments of protein for six months.

Knutson said the hope is the immune system recognizes them as a threat and destroys the cancer tumors.

“I’m excited to use this vaccine that we developed here at Mayo Clinic and see if it impacts women with this horrible disease, many of which their lives would be taken away,” said Knutson.

It’s a breakthrough he said will ultimately save lives.

“In hopes, like an infectious disease, it would prevent that from coming back,” said Knutson.

The trial is expected to run throughout the next five to six years. Knutson said he believes this vaccine will work in at least 90 percent of women while the existing vaccines only work in about 30 percent. The Mayo Clinic should receive the grant money within the next four weeks.