Conquering breast cancer is not an easy feat. Once it's beaten, there's always a chance it could come back. Now doctors are working on a vaccine to try and protect against a recurrence of the cancer.
Kellie Trombitas is a fighter. It took 33 rounds of radiation for her to knock-out breast cancer over 10 tough months.
"Chemo takes a lot out of you. It just makes you sick," said Trombitas.
Now she's excited to be cancer free, but she still has concerns.
"In the back of your mind you're always thinking, is it going to come back?" she said.
So Trombitas is taking part in a clinical trial to test E-75, a vaccine to help protect breast cancer survivors from recurrence.
E-75 is a part of the Her-2 neu protein. It helps stimulate t-cells to attack cancer cells. In trials, women injected with the vaccine saw a 50 percent reduction in recurrence.
The drug Herceptin can do the same but in a different way. Only 20 percent of breast cancer survivors, those with high levels of Her-2, can take Herceptin.
E-75 developer George Peoples says three times as many survivors could benefit from his vaccine. It targets women like Trombitas, who have lower levels of Her-2.
"It allows us to use the vaccine for patients who are otherwise not eligible to receive Herceptin," said George E. Peoples, M.D., FACS, director of the Cancer Vaccine Development Program and chief surgical oncology at SAMMC.
As for Trombitas, she's still getting stronger, fighting to keep cancer from making a comeback.
Dr. Peoples says one day the vaccine could be used to fight lung, prostate and ovarian cancers that also express the Her-2 protein.
Recruiting for the final round of trials for E-75 is underway. Seven hundred to 1,000 participants in dozens of sites across the country are needed. To find out more about enrolling in the trial go to www.neuvax.com.