A breast cancer vaccine that could be on the way to tackle the most aggressive form of the disease gives fresh hope to thousands of women with the “triple negative” type – some 12% of the 50,000 patients diagnosed each year.
Prof. Graham Pockley from the Nottingham research team hopes for trials in two years. He said: “It’s huge. It would save women.”
The revolutionary vaccine for the hardest-to-treat form of breast cancer is likely to go into clinical trials in two years, scientists claim.
The jab could save thousands of women with triple negative breast cancer, which does not respond to hormone therapy or cancer drugs used to tackle other forms of the illness.
British scientists discovered a protein called HAGE in sufferers’ tumours, which they found was linked to the presence of immune cells that can attack the cancer.
Now they believe the protein could be stimulated to produce antibodies against the killer disease – and harnessing this reaction could produce a cancer-beating vaccine.
Women’s chances of responding to chemotherapy were also found to be linked to the presence of HAGE.
The Nottingham team who made the discovery says combined chemo/vaccine therapy would save the lives of some of the 50,000 diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK each year.
Professor Graham Pockley, from Nottingham Trent University, said: “It is a big advance – it’s huge.
“We’re potentially talking about one in 10 women with breast cancer. For those who don’t do well on chemotherapy you’d administer the vaccine. It’s so exciting. It would save women. It’s world-class research in Nottingham.”
Professor Kefah Mokbel of The London Breast Institute said: “This could have significant implications in treatment and prevention in future.”
Terminal breast cancer patient Jenny Rhodes, 49, from Gedling, Notts, said: “It’d make a huge difference for others, though it’s too late for me.” Jackie Wheeler of Nottingham’s Breast Cancer Support Group said: “This will give a lot of people hope.”
What is triple-negative breast cancer?
It means the three types of receptors that fuel most breast cancer growth – oestrogen, progesterone, and the HER-2 gene – are not present.
Since the tumour cells lack the necessary receptors, common treatments like hormone therapy and cancer drugs like Herceptin are ineffective.
It is the most aggressive form of breast cancer and is more common among sufferers under the age of 40.
Researchers have discovered it is more likely to spread beyond the breast and recur after treatment.
One study found that black women were 3 times more likely to develop triple-negative breast cancer than white women.
Like other forms of breast cancer, triple-negative breast cancer is treated with surgery, radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy
Women with triple negative breast cancer don’t benefit from treatment with hormonal therapy or Herceptin.
Most women with triple negative breast cancer don’t have a strong history of breast cancer in their family.
Hollywood star Angelina Jolie had a double mastectomy to cut her chances of breast cancer after discovering she carries a faulty copy of BRCA1.
Cancer occurs when there are mutations in genes that regulate cell growth. The mutations let the cells divide and multiply in an uncontrolled, chaotic way. The cells keep multiplying, producing progressively more abnormal copies rather than reverting towards being healthy cells. This eventually forms a tumor in most cases.
Breast cancer is cancer that develops in breast cells. Usually, the cancer forms in the lobules or ducts of the breast. These are the glands that produce milk and the pathways that help bring the milk from the glands to the nipple. Cancer can also occur in fatty and fibrous breast tissue. This is known as stromal tissue.
The uncontrolled cancer cells start to invade healthy breast tissue and can travel to the lymph nodes under the arms. The lymph nodes are a primary pathway that helps the cancer cells move to other parts of the body.
A sharp pain in your breast, possibly with some tenderness, can be scary. It may have you wondering if it could be something serious.
A breast lump is often the thing women and even men notice that spurs a visit to their doctor. While early stage breast cancer shows no symptoms, timely detection can turn breast cancer into a survivor’s tale.
We often associate pain with something wrong, so when women feel tenderness or pain in their breast they often assume the worst — breast cancer. However, breast pain is rarely the first noticeable symptom of breast cancer. Several other factors can cause the pain.
Breast pain clinically called mastalgia can be caused by the following:
•Fluctuation of hormones caused by menstruation
•A side effect of some birth control pills or some infertility treatments
•A bra that doesn’t fit
•Large breasts, which may be accompanied with neck, shoulder, or back pain
A lump in the breast isn’t always cancerous. From hormonal changes in teens to damaged fat tissue, more than 90 percent of all breast lumps are noncancerous (benign) in women in their early 20s to early 50s, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Common causes of benign breast lumps include:
•Fibrocystic breast disease
•Fibroadenoma (noncancerous tumor)
•Fat necrosis (damaged tissue)
With fat necrosis, the mass cannot be distinguished from a cancerous lump without a biopsy.
While often caused by less severe conditions, a breast lump, pain, and tenderness are often the things most associated with breast cancer. Other symptoms of breast cancer include:
•Nipple discharge or retraction of the nipple
•Enlargement of one breast
•Dimpling of the breast surface
•An “orange peel” texture to the skin
•Unintentional weight loss
•Enlarged lymph nodes in the armpit
•Visible veins on the breast
If you experience any of these symptoms, you should see your doctor.
When you visit your doctor with concerns about breast pain, tenderness or a lump, there are common tests they might perform:
•Mammogram: an X-ray of the breast to help distinguish between a benign and malignant mass
•Ultrasound: use of ultrasonic sound waves to produce an image of the tissue
•MRI: used in conjunction with other tests, another non invasive imaging test used to examine breast tissue
•Biopsy: removal of a small amount of breast tissue for testing
Two categories reflect the nature of the cancer:
•Non invasive: cancer has not spread from the original tissue (stage 0)
•Invasive: cancer cells have spread to surrounding tissues (stages 1-4)