While a breast cancer vaccine is not yet approved for widespread use, there are trials underway — including one at Cleveland Clinic, where 46-year-old Jennifer Davis of Ohio was the first person to get the shot in 2021.
The vaccine had been in development at Cleveland Clinic for more than 20 years before it finally reached the human trial phase. Now, researchers are hopeful it could be available to certain cancer survivors within a few years.
In an interview with Fox News Digital, Davis said the vaccine has brought her peace of mind that the disease could be behind her for good.
“It all fell into place and worked out perfectly,” she said — though her journey is not over yet.
A long time coming
The breast cancer vaccine has been licensed to Anixa Biosciences, which is working with Cleveland Clinic on the rollout. Fox News Digital spoke with Dr. Amit Kumar, CEO of Anixa, about the extended journey to bring the vaccine to trial.
Kumar explained that Dr. Vince Tuohy, an immunologist at the Cleveland Clinic, invented the vaccine that’s currently being tested.
Jennifer Davis of Ohio is pictured here with photos of herself during her cancer journey. She was the first person to receive a breast cancer vaccine in 2021 at Cleveland Clinic. Now, she’s awaiting the results. (Jennifer Davis)
“Vince ran the research group that conducted the research on this vaccine for two decades,” Kumar said. “He was a great scientist, and we became good friends as we worked together. Unfortunately, he passed away a few weeks ago at the age of 74.”
Now, Tuohy’s fellow researchers — including Dr. G. Thomas Budd and Dr. Justin Johnson — are continuing work on the vaccine in collaboration with Kumar and his team.
Ohio cancer survivor was first to be vaccinated.
Davis is a nurse who has three adult children. She was initially diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer in 2018.
Triple-negative is a more aggressive type of breast cancer that does not have any of the three common “receptors” in the cells, which means it doesn’t respond to the hormonal therapies that are typically used to fight the disease.
About 15% of all breast cancers fall into this category.
Triple-negative breast cancer is more aggressive and harder to treat.
Davis had a rigorous round of treatments that included chemotherapy, surgery and 26 rounds of radiation. While the treatment worked and she was pronounced cancer-free, she was still concerned.
“Triple-negative cancer is so aggressive, and recurrence is really, really high — the prognosis is not the greatest,” she told Fox News Digital.
“And there was nothing I could take following treatment. Once treatment is over, there’s no pill or anything that gives you that peace of mind that it’s not going to come back.”
Davis, pictured with a photo of herself receiving the vaccine, said the shot has given her peace of mind and reduced her worries about her breast cancer coming back. (Jennifer Davis)
When Davis heard about the vaccine trial at Cleveland Clinic, she applied and was thrilled to get picked.
“There were very specific guidelines and a lot of testing I had to go through,” she said.
“I was so close to not being able to get it,” she also said, adding that “it all fell into place and worked out perfectly.”
Davis received her first dose of the vaccine on Oct. 19, 2021. After that, she received two additional doses spaced two weeks apart.
Then began the long wait to find out whether the shots worked.
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Hoping for good news
The vaccine has been administered to 14 patients so far, Dr. Kumar said.
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