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Woman with terminal cancer says experimental vaccine saved her life

(NewsNation) — After participating in an experimental vaccine trial, three people with terminal cancer saw their disease vanish in just months.

Dr. Thomas Marron, an oncologist, is a member of the team who helped develop the vaccine at Mount Sinai’s Vaccine and Cell Therapy Laboratory in New York.

Upon reviewing one of his patient’s scans following the vaccine, Dr. Marron said it felt like winning the lottery.

“Whenever you see something that you developed in the laboratory, you know, you develop most of the vaccines in mice, when you see it actually work in humans and really change someone’s life for the better, it’s the most rewarding feeling I can imagine,” Dr. Marron said.

The trial of the experimental vaccine, that includes at least 17 shots into the tumor and eight other immunotherapy injections, worked for less than half of the 10 patients enrolled.

The trial proved successful for Anna Bochenski, who describes it as a “second chance at life.” Bochenski was diagnosed with stage four terminal cancer four years ago. Now, her cancer is in remission.

“My tumors melted. I had three tumors. Within a time, they disappeared. Of course, I’m still going for treatments I have, you know, doctors watching over me and checking me. But if not for that vaccine, I don’t think I would be talking to you right now,” Bochenski told NewsNation Prime.

Bochenski said the vaccine trial had a physical impact on her, but she tried to keep a positive mind throughout the process.

“I was always trying to be very positive. I think it’s a big part of the fight, is that you have to put your mindset. I remember telling Dr. Marron, ‘Look, if the mouse made it, I’m going to make it as well.’ It was intense because I had to be there every single day, and once I started getting the vaccine, it was a very traumatic experience for me because my whole body went into a delirium for three hours,” Bochenski said. “I was shivering. I was not able to keep even a bottle of water in my hand … We found that my body was really fighting. My immune system was really fighting. If not for that vaccine, I don’t think I would be here.”

During the trial, researchers injected the vaccines directly into the site of the tumor, training the immune system to destroy it.

“Just like the flu shot or the coronavirus has dead flu or coronavirus along with the thing that activates the vaccine, the tumor itself is the dead stuff that we’re teaching your immune system to recognize and kill. So hopefully your immune system not only kills the tumor we’re directly injecting in the clinic but also all of the other cancer cells that are throughout the body. Those are the ones that are the real problem,” Dr. Marron explained.

The study is in extremely early stages, but researchers are trying to learn from their patients and develop new iterations of the vaccine. For Bochenski, she says the experience changed her life.

“It was just amazing. It was like you’re getting a second chance at life. So being really sad and worried that there’s nothing, there’s no hope. Then all of a sudden, there was hope,” Bochenski said. “I truly hope that one day cancer is going to disappear.”

Dr. Marron says the field of vaccines is moving quickly. At this time, he believes the more personalized vaccines are not practical for large-scale use just yet, but he hopes it will be able to help more people in the next few years.