A woman in Florida has beaten cancer and is recovering after undergoing a trial vaccine earlier this year at the Mayo Clinic.
In March, a shocked Lee Mercker was diagnosed with DCIS stage zero, a very early-stage form of breast cancer. She told the media that, “I was healthy, and that’s why I was mad. I was stunned, and everyone around me was madder and even more stunned.”
To start the treatment, she visited the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, where her doctor asked if she would be willing to try a new, experimental vaccine that seeks to identify and kill early-stage breast cancer cells and may be able to stop future cancer cells from forming. She would get the vaccine shot multiple times over a 12-week period.
Mercker, who was the first subject of the treatment said, “I signed up in like 10 seconds.”
After getting the vaccine, her tumor contracted, her immune system started removing the cancer cells and she had a double mastectomy just in case, but it worked. Mercker is healthy again, seven months after being diagnosed.
“I feel like I walked on the moon,” she said. “I worked in an industry with tons of women and I saw all kinds of stories, and it’d just be really nice to stamp this [breast cancer] out.”
Mercker’s doctor, Dr. Keith Knutson, said the vaccine still has some ways to go, but her results are promising.
In an interview, he said:
It is reasonable to say that we could have a vaccine within eight years that may be available to patients through their pharmacy or their doctor. We know that they’re safe. We know that they stimulate the immune system [to fight cancer], we know that they have had a positive impact on ovarian and breast cancer. We haven’t seen any adverse events that are causing problems other than irritation in the area similar to a flu vaccine. Now we have to convince the FDA, through solid, rigorous clinical trials that we’re seeing what we’re seeing.