I finished the most active treatment phase for male breast cancer in the first week of June, enjoyed a few weeks off from regular clinic visits and am now back to join a clinical trial that I hope will help me stay disease free and make a contribution to the development of a new therapy to suppress breast cancer recurrence.
The trial is testing a relatively new approach, in which the immune system is trained to keep a watchful eye out for breast cancer cells. It is part of the exciting new breakthroughs that have occurred in the last few years, which are beginning to fulfill the promise of harnessing the immensely powerful immune system for the fight against cancer. One of the big challenges has been identifying the right way to train the immune system, both in terms of providing it the right target, and in knowing how to get it into high gear.
The trial I am joining was designed by Beth Mittendorf, M.D., in Breast Medical Oncology, who recently spoke about her work in an interview at ASCO.
Anatomy of a clinical trial
It is called "Prospective Randomized, Single-Blinded, Multi-Center Phase II Trial of the HER2/neu Peptide GP2 + GM-CSF Vaccine versus GM-CSF Alone in HLA-A2+ OR the Modified HER2/neu Peptide AE37 + GM-CSF Vaccine versus GM-CSF Alone in HLA-A2- Node Positive and High Risk Node-Negative Breast Cancer Patients to Prevent Recurrence."
That's quite a mouthful - it's almost a summary of the whole trial! Let's break it down.