The Basser Center's race for a breast cancer vaccine

ByStacey Sager and Emily Hartmann & Joe Tesauro WABC logo
Monday, February 12, 2024
The race for a breast cancer vaccine
Stacey Sager sat down with Dr. Susan Domchek, the executive director at the Basser Center for BRCA at Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center in Philadelphia, to discuss the future of a breast cancer vaccine.

PHILADELPHIA (WABC) -- I sat down with Dr. Susan Domchek, the Executive Director at the Basser Center for BRCA at Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center in Philadelphia.

Dr. Domchek has played a critical role in scientific research into a vaccine for BRCA, and other targeted therapies.

She is someone I've known for a long time, and I depended upon her advice greatly after learning my diagnosis.

I spoke to her about how pressing it is for patients like me, have children coming of age who could inherit the BRCA mutation.

We also speak about the issue of secondary breast cancer in residual breast tissue after mastectomy.

Regarding the rareness of cases like mine, which are estimated at 1 to 2 percent, Dr. Domchek said, "We give numbers, but they mean nothing if you're the one that it happens to. And we're well aware of that... but we are interested in figuring out who might be at higher risk to have that happen."

Dr. Domchek added that a good mastectomy removes a maximum amount of breast tissue, and leaves a very little bit behind.

But it only takes a little bit of breast tissue being left behind to develop into cancer.

So I think that is where we have more work to do, as more women are living much longer after their mastectomies, we need to know that that number is right, and we need to know if there is anything we can do, to decrease that risk even further.

The Basser Center is also currently running a clinical trial for a vaccine for BRCA.

"We treated a cohort of people who had a prior cancer, and now we're treating individuals who have never had cancer, that have BRCA1 and 2 mutations. This is a big step. These are healthy people, coming in to receive an experimental vaccine," said Domchek. "I know this is experimental, but I'll roll up my sleeve and get this because if this can advance things so that my kids can get this vaccine, I will do it. And that's humbling, and quite emotional for me that people will do this."

Dr. Domchek added, "Science is changing rapidly. We've got a lot more tools in our toolbox. So, I'm an optimist."

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