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New vaccine could target aggressive form of breast cancer, study says

While there is no known cure for breast cancer, scientists are working on medicine that could be key for treating the disease, according to a new report. 

» RELATED: What new breast cancer study means for patients facing chemo

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic recently conducted a study to develop a vaccine that could eliminate cancer cells and potential disease recurrence. 

The vaccine helps the body resist the return of the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), a protein that can cause breast cancer. It should be used with Trastuzumab, an immune-stimulating drug given to women following HER2 tumor removal surgery. If successful, the researchers believe the vaccine could prevent the cancer from returning and spreading to other parts of the body.

Here’s exactly how it works:

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The vaccination in combination with Trastuzumab works by activating the immune system's B-cells, which attacks breast tumor cells with HER2. The process then triggers other groups of cells so that they that promote resistance to the recurrence of the illness. 

» RELATED: Breast cancer treatment may trigger heart problems, study says

“The vaccine provides a prevention strategy to deter cancer reformation,” coauthor Keith Knutson said in a statement. “The body's T-cells and B-cells synergize with each other for a strong, durable, immune response.”

The analysts found the medicine can cause mild responses like fatigue. For future research, they hope to find out how long immunity will last and whether it can be use to help target other cancerous cells.

“The standard approaches to treating cancer address the existing disease,” Knutson said. “Our goal is to develop a strategy to address recurrence. We have good drugs, like Trastuzumab, that can interfere with the recurrence of HER2 breast cancer. Our hope is that a vaccine that engages multiple aspects of the body's own immune system will build on those successes.”

The researchers have received an $11 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense for further exploration. 

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