Patients get vaccine trial that could help them fight breast cancer

Vaccine uses body's immune system to fight cancer

By Melanie Lawson - The Morning Show anchor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla - Bonnie Hood is a vibrant energetic woman and you'd never know what she's been through over the last decade. Hood works in a hospital but was avoiding her mammogram. She was overdue and when she finally got one the news wasn't good.

"I found out I had breast cancer in my left breast. They found a small lump," Hood said.

It was caught early, so she had surgery and was put on Tamoxifen for five years. Ten years later they found a knot in her neck. The cancer was back and this time it was Stage 4.

"I had the surgery and within a month I met Dr. (Troy) Guthrie and we started the chemotherapy. I went through six rounds of chemotherapy and at that time he did another pet scan and they found out it was 50 percent better," Hood said.

Guthrie, the medical director of research and education for the Baptist Cancer Institute, is now heading a clinical trial that could one day help patients like Bonnie.

"If we're going to get rid of a cancer, then we have to train the body's immune system to help us get rid of it. My ultimate goal would be to move this type of therapy into earlier and earlier cancers, breast cancer specifically," Guthrie said.

The trial is testing a vaccine for women whose cancer could not be treated by past therapies. It uses an adenovirus that replicates inside the tumor tissue and kills the tumor cells. Basically your own body is triggered to recognize the cancer as bad and starts attacking it.

"I've been in cancer therapy for four years. It's the most exciting part of my career," Guthrie said.

Guthrie has two patients enrolled in the trial. In one, he's seen what he calls partial success.

"The local lesions that I have injected have gotten smaller and there are not as many either," Guthrie said.

Ultimately, the hope is the vaccine will dry up not only the breast cancer, but also any other cancers in the body. Hood didn't qualify for the treatment, but just the thought of a cancer fighting vaccine is inspiring.

"I was very excited. I was hoping that I qualified for it," she said. "I wasn't happy about having the cancer, but I'm a big big supporter of research."

The trial is open for women with Stage 4 breast cancer who have not had success with past therapies. The study does not allow patients to stay on any other cancer treatments while taking research drugs.  For more information regarding being screened for this trial, call 904-202-7051 or 904-202-7070.

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