COMMENTARY | NeuVax, a breast cancer vaccine, is entering phase III trials. The drug's manufacturer, Galena Biopharma, announced on Dec. 5, that it signed a distribution deal with TEVA Pharmaceuticals. TEVA will handle the global commercialization and distribution of the drug once it is out of trials. It is about time this is moving forward. We need to make progress toward ending this disease.
What is NeuVax?
A vaccine called NeuVax is close to being a reality for breast cancer patients. NeuVax is a vaccine, the first of its kind, to prevent breast cancer from recurring. A recurrence is when breast cancer returns to the same breast. If breast cancer appears in the other breast, it is not a recurrence but a new cancer.
Most women have a 15-20 percent chance of breast cancer recurring, even after a mastectomy. The implications of the vaccine are huge. It reduces the chance of breast cancer recurrence in women with node-positive, HER-2 negative breast cancers. About 75 percent of all breast cancer is HER-2 negative. The vaccine is given after the standard course of treatment is completed. It is not a replacement for radiation or chemotherapy. I would gladly try a vaccine over the currently available long-term recurrence preventions -- all are hormone based and carry awful side effects.
Phase III trials
Unfortunately for me, there are no trials available in Arkansas. Even if there were, I am not eligible because my cancer is HER-2 positive, and I am thankfully, node-negative. This means that the cancer is not in my lymph system. Phase III trials are when the drug is actually tested in random settings on humans. This drug seems to be very promising. Right now, phase III trials are open in the United States and Canada. Israel will have at least four phase III trials opening soon. You can see if there are trials near you at the NeuVax website.
This vaccine has the potential to replace hormone therapies like tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors. Both types of drugs have serious side effects. A vaccine, taken over the course of three years, reduces the time a patient needs to take medications and it helps to prevent recurrence. Hopefully the phase III trials go well and we get this vaccine available to breast cancer patients soon.
Lynda Altman was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2011. She writes a series for Yahoo! Shine called "My Battle With Breast Cancer."