BUDDY CHECK 6: Can doctors create a breast cancer vaccine?
RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – It’s devastating to have a loved or friend to die from breast cancer. The National Breast Cancer Coalition wants to help save more lives.
As I reported in July, the NBCC has set an unprecedented deadline to end breast cancer by 2020. Part of the NBCC’s strategy includes encouraging doctors to create a breast cancer vaccine to prevent the disease from spreading.
Metastisis leads to a large number of deaths from the disease.
I asked Massey Cancer Center Onologist, Dr. Tom Smith about the challenges of creating a such vaccine.
Dr. Smith says with breast cancer you need to find a specific flag or target on your breast cancer that will trigger the immune system to fight back against your breast cancer, but leave the rest of you alone.
Unlike the flu vaccine, which Smith says can boost everyone’s immune system to fight the virus, cancer cells don’t respond to a “one size fits all approach” because they look different in each patient.
Dr. Smith says researchers at the National Cancer Institute or centers like Massey are trying to tweak the immune system to recognize one little piece of the breast cancer cell that makes it just different enough so the immune system can attack it.
Dr. Smith says they understand how breast cancer grows which is key to making it stop growing and making it disappear.
Until there is a vaccine or cure, he reminds you of the things you can do to reduce your risk for the disease coming back or a recurrence:
- keep your weight down and stable
- get other screenings like colon cancer, and an annual mammogram
Dr. Smith says they’ve also found taking an aspirin a day can reduce your risk, but talk to your doctor first before starting this therapy.
I’ll continue to bring you updates on the NBCC’S work toward it 2020 deadline.