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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Baptist Cancer Institute is looking for women who have stage 4 breast cancer and treatment appears not to be working. These women could qualify for a breast cancer vaccine clinical trial.

Dr. Troy Guthrie, medical director of research at Baptist Cancer Institute, said the vaccine is one of dozens of breast cancer vaccines being tested now.

Dr. Guthrie said the hope is in 15 to 20 years is that when a women is diagnosed with breast cancer, she can receive a vaccine to fight the cancer.

"This is a unique opportunity for women to enter a clinical trial that attacks their breast cancer in a different way than in the past," Dr. Guthrie said referring to past treatments of radiation, surgery and chemotherapy. "This is a way of treating their breast cancer with an immunotherapy."

According to a press release from Baptist:

The treatment is an adenovirus that replicates inside the tumor tissue and kills the tumor cells, but does not replicate in normal tissue.

"The body is triggered to recognize the cancer as being bad and starts attacking it," Dr. Guthrie said.

The vaccine, for example, would be injected into the lymph nodes or skin tumor nodules. The trial involves a patient getting treated once a month for a year. There can be multiple injections that occur on the same day as well as some oral medicines to improve the patient's immune system. Dr. Guthrie said Baptist Health is the only healthcare organization in Florida doing this specific vaccine study sponsored by ZIOPHARM biopharmaceutical company, though there may be hospitals in the state doing other breast cancer vaccines. Anyone interested would have to be evaluated to see if they are eligible.

A side effect of the vaccine can be flu-like symptoms and the first person in the trial experienced those for about five days, Dr. Guthrie said. But her tumors in her breast have been shrinking when other therapies failed, he said.

Yvette, 44, who is the first patient, was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago and went through traditional chemotherapy and radiation. Besides flu-like symptoms after the first treatment, she said "everything is working out good" and "the nodules seem to be going down," she said.

Her advice to other women "is to try to always think positive and just know you are going to make it through."

Baptist Health also has another trial open for patients with triple negative breast cancer, which accounts for about 20 percent of all breast cancer. The patients must have stage four metastatic triple negative breast cancer and previously received and failed standard therapy.

Patients with triple negative breast cancer don't have any of the three receptors typically found in breast cancer and don't respond to some of the treatment used for other breast cancer patients. The study involves a genetically engineered antibody given intravenously every three weeks.

Both studies do not allow patients to stay on any other cancer treatment while taking these research drugs. For more information regarding being screened for either trial, contact (904) 202-7051 or (904) 202-7070.

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