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Vaccine could help survivors fight recurrence of breast cancer | News

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Vaccine could help survivors fight recurrence of breast cancer

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- Where are we in terms of preventing breast cancer?

Wednesday morning, oncologist Dr. Lisa McGrail discussed a vaccine she has been working on for a long time.

"We're very excited that we just started our clinical trial at George Washington Medical Faculty Associates. The vaccine is for women who are breast cancer survivors, but who are at high risk to recur," said McGrail.

She added, "It's for women who have already been diagnosed with breast cancer but at the time of the diagnosis, the cancer had spread to maybe a stage two are a stage three but they're living with sort of the risk that this could come back sometime in the future."

How does the vaccine work? McGrail told us, "The vaccine is a peptide, which is a small part of a protein that is found in about 70% of breast breast cancer cells. The idea behind the vaccine is that when we give the vaccine to a woman, the body recognizes that as foreign or as evil and develops an immunity to it, develops antibodies so it's a way for a woman's own body to fight the cancer should it ever return in the future."

After 40 years of research and millions of dollars towards the cure, where are we in term of prevention? What can we do to help ourselves?

"I think that's a very good question and difficult one to answer ... you know, the main thing we can do is lifestyle modification right now. Exercise is critically important and when we talk about exercise, we're really talking about aerobic exercise up to about five hours per week. The other thing is really our diet and maintaining a healthy weight. Those two things are critically important," said McGrail.

A new study talks about walking being important for more mature women, but even younger women can reduce their risk for being diagnosed with breast cancer.

"As women, as mothers, as grandmothers, the things we can tell our children and grandchildren, especially those between the ages of 12 and 22, is that vigorous exercise will help them prevent as they grow up later in their lives," stated McGrail.