Monthly Archives: July 2015

I am a Lab Rat


I have done a lot of things in my life but until recently a lab rat has not been included in that list. I guess I really should not call myself a lab rat but more like a lab human. I agreed to to take part in a Phase I clinical trial for a vaccine to delay/prevent the recurrence of breast cancer.  The entire  name is “A Phase l Trial of the Safety and Immunogenicity of a Multiple Antigen Vaccine (STEMVAC) in HER2 Negative Advanced Stage Breast Cancer Patients.” I was the second human to get this particular vaccine.

Over the next 15 months I will visit the Tumor Vaccine Group a the University of Washington 7 times. My first visit was July 14. That day entailed a detailed description of the study and what I should expect for each visit. I met with one of the doctors involved and we spent at least 45 minutes going over the nitty gritty. (I really like her and her last name is Stanton) I then had a physical, chest x-ray, blood pressure and a tetanus vaccine (this is used to measure my overall immune response) and gave 24 vials of blood. Well, actually, it was 22 vials of blood. The tap ran dry at 17.  The nurse then retapped the vein but it ran out after 5. He wasn’t going to stick me again and decided that the study people would just have to “make do” with 22 vials.  My collection of medical tattoos also grew with two new dots on the left arm. I now have a total of 7 “tats.”

The tattoos are markers so that the vaccine is given in the same place every time. I get the vaccine three times over the first three months then a booster at month 6 and month 12.  Each visit includes a physical and blood work with only Month 4, 6, 12, and 15 requiring the 24 vials. At month 2 and 3 only a paltry amount of blood is needed.  Month 4 and 15 also include a skin biopsy of the vaccine site to look for the presence of the vaccine still under the skin.

After doing all the pre work, I got the vaccine. Then I laid in bed for an hour to be sure I didn’t have a reaction to the vaccine. It was a good time to read, take a nap, drink juice or whatever else you do waiting to see if something might or might not happen. Nothing happened so I made an appointment for August and off I went.

While the primary goal of this trial is to delay/prevent the recurrence of breast cancer, the ultimate goal is to develop a vaccine to prevent the occurrence of breast cancer.  I am so fortunate to live in an area with access to excellent health care and medical research. Studies involving the diagnosis of Stage 3 HER-2 neu cancer are few and far between. I feel very lucky to qualify for this one. My hope is that a vaccine is found and women after me never again have to deal with this disease.


For those of you that want more info on the study, it can be found at