‘I’m a warrior’: Breast cancer survivor joins vaccine trials in hopes of helping others

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Hundreds of patients across the country are currently participating in breast cancer vaccine trials.

Participants say they hope to put an end to the diseases, as well as save lives.

In April of 2022, wife and mother of six, Deatrice Jackson, said she was diagnosed with stage two, HER2 positive breast cancer.

“It was like a shock cause it’s not, it’s not in my family at all,” Jackson said.

Jackson said her oncologist at the Mayo Clinic laid out a battle plan that included six rounds of chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and a mastectomy.

And Jackson said her status is now, “Cancer Free. Cancer free.”

Jackson is among hundreds of patients across the country who are participating in one of Mayo Clinic’s breast cancer vaccine trials.

“I wanna help so many other women that are going through this,” Jackson explained.

Dr. Keith Knutson is a professor of immunology and cancer biology at the Mayo Clinic. For the last two decades, he said he has been working to develop vaccines for triple-negative and HER2 breast cancer that are currently in phase two human clinical trials.

“It’s very rewarding, as you can imagine,” Knutson said.

Knutson said the triple negative trials have been underway since 2016, while the HER2 trials have been underway since 2020.

He said his goal is to create a breast cancer vaccine that could stimulate the body’s immune system. Ideally, this would create T-cells and antibodies that would kill off cancer cells.

Knutson said both experimental vaccines are given to women who had those types of cancers in the past, with the goal of stopping the disease from returning.

“It’s really been the revolution in science and our understanding of immunology, over the past you know decade, that has allowed us to really start thinking about vaccines being applied to different kinds of diseases,” Knutson explained.

Jackson said she will be receiving the vaccine every 21 days until September and after that doctors will follow her progress for the next 10 years.

She said she hopes her contribution to this groundbreaking research will help save millions of lives, as she celebrates living out the rest of hers.

“I’m strong. I’m a warrior. I just feel like I can get through anything. I’m blessed. I really am ... I really am.”

The Mayo Clinic said it is also on the verge of testing a vaccine that would prevent women from developing any type of breast cancer. Those trials are expected to start late this year or early next year.

VIDEO: Daughter’s diagnosis leads to mother’s breast cancer discovery

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