Vaccine Trial Update at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center

Experimental Vaccine Shows Promise with Triple Negative Breast Cancer Patients

Dr. Carmen Calfa is a breast medical oncologist at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. For more information about the clinical trial for the triple negative breast cancer vaccine, click here or visit the UHealth health news blog.


In 2018, Jacki Bennett was the first patient at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center to take part in a clinical trial for an experimental vaccine to prevent the recurrence of triple negative breast cancer. It is more aggressive and has a lower survival rate than other types of breast cancer.

“This may not save my life, but I’m hoping it will save someone’s,” said Jacki two years ago.

Since then, Jacki has traveled with her wife, returned to working full time, and her breast cancer has not come back.

“I feel great mentally as well as physically,” Jacki says.

Dr. Carmen Calfa, a breast medical oncologist at Sylvester, runs this folate receptor vaccine clinical trial. She explains it’s designed to stimulate an immune response.

“That is specific to that folate receptor on these triple negative breast cancer cells,” says Dr. Calfa. “We’re hoping that the immune system is trained to recognize those cancer cells and hopefully get rid of them.”

Neither Dr. Calfa nor Jacki knows if she is getting the actual vaccine or a placebo, but two years later they are hopeful.

“If you feel good and have no new symptoms and you don’t have any new physical findings, then you’re likely to be in remission,” Dr. Calfa says. “And that’s the case with Jacki.”

For the first six months of the trial, Jacki got monthly shots. Now she receives a booster every six months.

“As soon as I was diagnosed, I knew that I wanted to do more than just survive cancer,” Jacki says. “I wanted to help in any way that I could to advance cancer treatments.”


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