When people think of vaccines, they usually imagine a shot that prevents a disease. In cancer, some vaccines are used to treat disease that has already developed. NIH researchers have shown that a vaccine can be used to stimulate immune responses to breast and ovarian cancer.
In the study, 26 women who had been unsuccessfully treated for breast or ovarian cancer were vaccinated with a modified pox virus (PANVAC) that was able to produce specific cancer-related proteins in infected cells. The virus also contained genes for proteins that stimulate the immune system.
The results were encouraging, with many of the women experiencing at least a partial response against their cancer, resulting in stable disease. One woman had a complete response against her breast cancer and had no evidence of disease. Additional studies are planned.