Researchers testing vaccine against DCIS

Volume 6, Issue 2, 2017


The vaccine for early breast lesions could become part of a routine immunization schedule.

Photograph of Keith L. Knutson, Ph.D.

Keith L. Knutson, Ph.D.

Mayo Clinic researchers are gearing up to test a vaccine they hope will replace standard therapies and prevent the recurrence of precancerous breast lesions.

Keith L. Knutson, Ph.D., director of the Discovery and Translation Lab's Cancer Research Program at Mayo Clinic's campus in Florida, has received a $3.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to conduct a phase II clinical trial that will test a vaccine designed to establish lifelong immunity against the development of precancerous breast lesions, called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).

If successful, the vaccine could one day substitute for the current therapy for ductal carcinoma in situ lesions.

"Left untreated, only about 35 percent of precancerous breast lesions morph into cancer, but physicians cannot identify which lesions are potentially dangerous," Dr. Knutson said. "As a result, most women diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ undergo a traditional therapy regimen of surgery and possibly hormone therapy and radiation."

Dr. Knutson and his Mayo Clinic research team hope to develop a vaccine for DCIS that could become part of a routine immunization schedule for healthy women.

"We ultimately want to eliminate ductal carcinoma in situ, which means preventing disfiguring surgeries and toxic therapies in the 60,000 women who receive this diagnosis every year in the U.S.," Dr. Knutson said. "Eliminating ductal carcinoma in situ also would reduce the overall breast cancer burden significantly."