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Novel Vaccine Approach Halts Disease After 23 Years of Breast Cancer

"By age 66, and more than 20 years of cancer treatments, I was exhausted ... "

MEDSCAPE – A woman who had breast cancer for 23 years, and who had gone through 12 different lines of therapy, has shown a dramatic response to a novel cancer vaccine in a clinical trial.

A recent 6-month follow-up showed no evidence of new or recurrent disease, and scans showed regression of a distant bulky left adrenal metastasis, as well as at other sites.

A small site of residual hypermetabolism remains in the sternum, but this is thought to be related to scar tissue.

The patient, Stephanie Gangi, told Medscape Medical News that, before she entered into the trial for the novel cancer vaccine, she was “mentally and physically exhausted.”

She had benefited from being diagnosed with hormone-positive breast cancer just as its treatment was evolving and progressing, which meant that, every time a treatment failed, “there was the next thing to try, which was great and kept me going.”

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“But I will admit that, by age 66, and more than 20 years of cancer treatments, I was exhausted.”

Gangi, a New York City-based poet, essayist, and fiction writer, said she was “cautiously optimistic” about the cancer vaccine, but the “overriding thought was I wanted to avoid chemotherapy.”

“I was not really signing on for great outcomes, I was signing on for something that might keep chemo at bay. The biggest impact so far for me has been that, for the first time in more than a decade, I am not on any medication. That’s really amazing…and that means no side effects,” she said.

Gangi stopped the vaccine treatment this past July, and just over 3 months later, she is still “wrapping her head around” the fact that her cancer has regressed. “I’ve had breast cancer a long time,” she said, “and you can’t just snap your fingers and be fine.”

Although the two scans that she has had since the trial ended have been “astonishing,” she underlined that this is not about a ‘cure,’ but rather “clearing tumors for the first time in many years.”

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