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Fox Chase Cancer Center Physicians Study Breast Cancer Vaccine

PHILADELPHIA (October 6, 2003) — Physicians at Fox Chase Cancer Center are testing a new vaccine for treating breast cancer. Typically, vaccines (such as those for chicken pox or measles) are designed to prevent diseases by preparing the immune system for a possible attack. The strategy of therapeutic vaccines is to boost the body's immune system to fight cancer cells that may not be eliminated with traditional cancer treatment.

This vaccine study is for women whose breast cancer cells produce an excess amount of a protein called HER2.

"HER2 is made at low levels by normal cells," explained Margaret von Mehren, M.D., a medical oncologist at Fox Chase Cancer Center and principal investigator of the study. "In normal cells, the HER2 protein helps direct cells to grow and reproduce. Sometimes, cancer cells make too much HER2 protein, which causes these cells to grow uncontrollably."

The purpose of this study is to test the safety of the vaccine named delta-HER2 plus AS15 adjuvant. An adjuvant is a compound that enhances the human immune response. "The eventual goal in studying delta-HER2 is to see if it will help the body produce antibodies and other immune cells to attack the cancer cells that are making too much HER2 protein," added von Mehren.

The study is sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals and Corixa (acquired by GlaxoSmithKline in 2005).


Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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