Vaccine preventing cancer's return

October 16, 2012

Marie Halpin-Gallo loves her job selling ads with a Vineland, New Jersey newspaper. Despite long hours, she thrives on being part of this close-knit community.

"It's like a great big family," she says.

That community rallied around her last year, after a routine mammogram detected a form of breast cancer called DCIS. DCIS is limited to the milk ducts of the breast. It's usually treated with surgery - and often a lumpectomy.

But surgery isn't always the end for women with DCIS.

"They run a higher risk of developing an invasive tumor in either the breast have DCIS in, or the other breast," according to Dr. Brian Czerniecki of the Penn College of Medicine.

So, at the urging of her sister and a close friend, Marie volunteered for a study led by Dr Brian Czerniecki at Penn. His team is testing on a vaccine to keep this type of breast cancer from coming back. It uses a patient's own white cells to fight disease. They're trained to attack a protein early tumors need to survive.

So far, for more than 4 dozen women who've gotten the vaccine in the past 7 years, it's worked.You can read more about the study by following this link to Penn's website.

"We haven't even seen a single breast cancer event," Dr. Czerniecki says.

Marie hopes that success continues. For now, she's happy to be able to focus on her job and her family.

"I feel like it's a miracle, that I got to experience this," she says.

You can do your part fighting cancer just by putting on a pair of sneakers. Join me Saturday morning in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk and Run at Memorial Hall in Fairmount Park. Registration begins at 7, runners take off at 8.

To help in the fight against cancer, you can donate to one of several charities, including Pennies in Action, a private foundation which raises cancer research funds specifically for this study.

Copyright © 2020 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.