Military researchers working on developing breast cancer vaccine

Military researches say they are developing a breast cancer vaccine, and it's being tested in Houston right now

September 30, 2013 5:00:32 PM PDT
Almost 300,000 women have deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001. Many are helicopter pilots and air force pilots, but as more women have joined the military, there has been a surprising spike in breast cancer among female soldiers. Now, military researchers are developing a breast cancer vaccine, and it's being tested in Houston.

Diana Potter is getting an experimental vaccine to prevent her breast cancer from coming back. She is a civilian from Sugar Land, and she's in a study at MD Anderson Cancer Center. But military researchers are actually spearheading the study. They've been working on this vaccine for 10 years.

"I do this so maybe my kids won't have to have this," Potter said.

Army researchers want to prevent recurrence of breast cancer because the rate of breast cancer in female soldiers is so high; it's 20 to 40 percent higher than among civilians. Why? They theorize women in the military get screened more regularly so cancer is caught early. And some soldiers work in toxic environments.

MD Anderson's Dr. Elizabeth Mittendorf says the results of the vaccine are promising.

"And we've largely shown the vaccine can reduce the risk of recurrence by about 50 percent," Mittendorf said.

Army researchers say they hope to have a breast cancer vaccine approved and available for all women in four years.

Military medical researchers are also starting trials to develop vaccines that can protect women from ovarian and uterine cancers.

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