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Next Gen Newsletter: Investigational Cancer Vaccine & Immunotherapy for HER2-Positive Breast Cancer

Next Gen Newsletter: Investigational Cancer Vaccine & Immunotherapy for HER2-Positive Breast Cancer

Immunotherapy is drug treatment that helps the immune system fight cancer. The immune system might not attack cancer cells because these cells produce proteins that help them hide from immune system cells. Immunotherapy works by interfering with that process. There are several immunotherapy treatments available for a variety of malignancies.

The immune system relies on its T white cells to protect us from infections by attacking bacteria and disease. To prevent T-cells from attacking our own body’s healthy cells, the immune system uses molecules called immune checkpoints. Immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy works by preventing these checkpoint molecules from interfering with T-cells, allowing the immune system to produce an abundance of T-cells to attack and kill cancer cells.

In a recent article1 in Clinical Cancer Research, researchers at Duke Cancer Institute are conducting a two-drug clinical trial strategy which includes a vaccine for HER2-positive breast cancers in combination with an immune checkpoint inhibitor- pembrolizumab. The vaccine was developed at Duke and targets the HER2 protein, which is the driver of HER2-positive breast cancer and the cause of about 20% of all breast cancer cases. By working in tandem, the vaccine primes the immune system T-cells, and the checkpoint inhibitor then rallies the T-cells to action, resulting in pronounced tumor reduction and long -term tumor-free survival.
Scientists are also investigating cancer vaccines to overcome treatment resistance.

1Erika J. Crosby et al. Stimulation of Oncogene-Specific Tumor-Infiltrating T cells through Combined Vaccine and aPD-1 Enable Sustained Antitumor Responses against Established HER2 Breast Cancer. Clinical Cancer Research. Vol 26, 1 September 2020

Authored by:
George M.Pikler, M.D., Ph.D., FACP
Lead Oncology Advocate N1X10

Dr. George M. Pikler graduated summa cum laude from the Central University of Ecuador School of Medicine in 1968. His postdoctoral training included an internship in internal medicine at Greater Baltimore Medical Center in Baltimore, MD, a residency in internal medicine and a doctoral degree in molecular medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. The American Cancer Society awarded him a fellowship in medical oncology and hematology at M.D. Anderson & Tumor Institute in Houston, TX.

With training certifications in internal medicine and oncology, Dr. Pikler and his family moved to Tulsa, OK where he established and was the President of Cancer Specialists, Inc, a boutique oncology-hematology clinical research private practice. In addition, he was the chief of the oncology at Hillcrest Medical Center, a teaching hospital for 20 years and associate professor of medicine, oncology-hematology at the University of Oklahoma, Tulsa Medical College. He was one of the founders of the Southern Association of Oncology Practices and subsequently the National Medical Director for the International Oncology Network, AmerisourceBergen’s Oncology Division.

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