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Ovarian Cancer Vaccine Gives Patients Hope

Reported by Stephanie Stahl, CBS3
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(Photo Credit: CBS Philadelphia)

(Photo Credit: CBS Philadelphia)

CBS Pittsburgh (con't)

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Hope. That’s what doctors are giving to some women diagnosed with a deadly cancer.

Moments with her family are what 49-year-old Liz Thomasson cherishes most. Especially since just a couple of years ago she was fighting for her life.

“I didn’t think I’d be here today. I really truly didn’t,” said Thomasson.

She was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer in October of 2007. After surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, the cancer came back.

“You’re doing well for a few months, then you recur. It becomes somewhat chronic in that it just, it’s never going to go away,” said Thomasson.

It even came back a second time, and was treated again. Doctors say recurrent ovarian cancer is usually a death sentence.

But Thomasson wasn’t about to give up. She came to Dr. George Coukos at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania to test a new ovarian cancer vaccine.

“We’re seeing some very preliminary exciting results,” said Dr. Coukos.

Doctors took Thomasson’s blood cells and protein from her tumor and created a personalized vaccine, designed to prevent future cancer.

“This is done several times so that we actually re-educate the immune system to recognize tumor. In addition, we give drugs to help the immune system function better,” said Dr. Coukos.

“It was relatively easy. The side effects just aren’t there because it’s all made from your own body, so you’re not going to reject it,” said Thomasson.

She tested two different vaccines and got injections every few weeks for more than a year and a half. Doctors say her results have been amazing.

“She has had no recurrence,” said Dr. Coukos.

“I’ve been in remission. So I’m grateful, I really am,” said Thomasson.

Since her diagnosis, she was at her son’s side at his wedding, and she enjoys watching her grandchildren grow up.

“I’m traveling a lot more. You start your bucket list so to speak and enjoy the little things too. The family, the marriages, the graduation, so it’s all good,” she said.

While Thomasson is doing well it’s not clear yet if the vaccine will be as effective for everyone. The research is ongoing.

For more information about clinical trials in gynecologic oncology, call 215-614-0234 or send an email to ybarrac@obgyn.upenn.edu.

RELATED LINKS:
Penn Medicine: Ovarian Research
Penn Medicine: Clinical Trials
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