Almost all breast cancer deaths are the result of the cancer spreading; whereas cancer that’s confined to the breast can be treated successfully. Unlike regular vaccines given to healthy people to prevent disease developing, a therapeutic vaccine will stimulate a patient’s own immune system to attack and destroy breast cancer cells. Excitingly, the first use of such a vaccine is likely to be in patients with currently incurable cancer that has spread beyond the breast, or in those whose tumours are resistant to existing treatments and likely to spread.
This ongoing project in the BCFNZ Ferrier Breast Cancer Research Programme will see Ferrier’s team of world-leading carbohydrate chemists, headed by Professor Richard Furneaux, pouring its considerable skills into developing a “therapeutic vaccine” for breast cancer. Breast Cancer Foundation NZ pledged an initial $500,000 to the BCFNZ Ferrier Breast Cancer Research Programme in 2017, and have now donated a further $100,000 to help bring a home-grown breast cancer vaccine to clinical trial right here in New Zealand. The therapeutic vaccine, being developed by the brilliant team at the Ferrier Institute, Victoria University of Wellington, is designed to prevent breast cancer from spreading – that’s when breast cancer kills. This vaccine project is the key focus of the five-year BCFNZ Ferrier Breast Cancer Research Programme.