Vaccines capping tumors from spreading in breast and ovarian cancer patients

Local cancer researchers are working on vaccines aimed at keeping cancer cells from spreading.

Thousands of hours are spent testing stem cells in hopes to create a stronger immune system for patients in remission.

Dr. Keith Knutson, immunology professor at Mayo Clinic, explained our bodies work constantly to fight off diseases.

“Basically it’s a shield and it’s a very complex shield that we don’t quite understand how it works,” Knutson said.

In clinical trials, a vaccine has shown success for patients in remission after undergoing surgery, chemotherapy and radiation for breast or ovarian cancer.

“What we want to do is come in after those treatments and we want to vaccinate to boost your own immune system to fight the cancer,” Knutson said.

Patients will be treated with multiple rounds of the vaccine to prevent the cancer from coming back.

In Mayo Clinic’s lab, researchers are staining human cells in various colors to learn about their function and how they respond to cancer.

Knutson said researchers are hopeful the vaccine will keep cancer cells from reoccurring.

“Once an individual relapses, then it becomes more and more problematic because it occurs in different sites of the body – people die of metastatic cancer,” Knutson said.

Their long-term goal is to develop a vaccine used in primary prevention that would eliminate any cancer cells before they’re even known in our system.