Woman cancer-free in 7 months after receiving trial vaccine

A Florida woman is now cancer free and in recovery after receiving a trial vaccine at the Mayo Clinic earlier this year.

Lee Mercker was shocked when she was diagnosed with DCIS stage zero, a very early-stage form of breast cancer in March. "I was healthy,” she told Fox 35 Orlando. “That's why I was mad. I was stunned, and everyone around me was more mad and more stunned."

She went to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville to start treatment, where her doctor asked if she'd be interested in trying a new, experimental vaccine that aims to target and kill early-stage breast cancer cells and prevent future cancer cells from developing. She would receive the vaccine shot several times over a 12-week period.

"I signed up in like 10 seconds," Mercker said, becoming the first test subject for the treatment.

After receiving the vaccine, her tumor shrunk, her immune system started killing off the cancer cells and she underwent a double mastectomy just to be sure, but it worked. Seven months after receiving the upsetting diagnosis, Mercker is healthy again. 

"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."

Dr. Keith Knutson, Mercker's doctor, said the vaccine still has a long way to go, but her results are encouraging. The team will be able to test Mercker's removed tissue and has since started trying the vaccine on two other patients while they look for more test subjects. 

In an interview with Forbes, he noted that the vaccine, as well as two other cancer vaccines researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville are working on, are in the very early stages of testing. However, a breast cancer vaccine that's widely available is not so far away.

 “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,” Knutson said.

“We know that they’re safe. We know that they stimulate the immune system [to fight cancer],” he said. “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 vaccination. Now we have to convince the FDA, through solid, rigorous clinical trials that we’re seeing what we’re seeing.”

Knutson said the team is also working on a vaccine to prevent cancer with the National Breast Cancer Coalition and expects to be in phase 1 clinical trials in 2020.

RELATED: Join the fight against breast cancer by shopping products that give back

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Products that give back for breast cancer research

Gorjana Power Gemstone Bracelet for Compassion, $38

Gorjana will be donating 50 percent of proceeds from the Power Gemstone Bracelet to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

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Limited Edition Rothy's, $145

In addition to donating $50,000 to BCRF, Rothy's is spreading the love this October by gifting a select limited edition pink shoes to survivors and supporters with the purchase of eligible shoes. 

"At Rothy's, we're just as dedicated to sustainability as we are to supporting women. We're thrilled to be an official partner with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, which works tirelessly to support lifesaving research. Last year we asked our customers to tell us about women in their life who have been impacted by breast cancer, and we were incredibly moved by the responses we received. We're looking forward to reading more of those special words this year." - Rothy's VP of Marketing, Elie Donahue

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Lilly Pulitzer Pinking Positive Tote, $124

As a direct contribution in support of this Print with Purpose collection, the BCRF will receive a $22,000 donation from Lilly Pulitzer.

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Jack Rogers Georgica Sandal, $128

Jack Rogers will be donating 10% of proceeds from the Georgica sandal in blush and magenta to the Breast Cancer Association throughout October. 

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AERIN Rose Lip Conditioner & Amber Musk Rollerball Set, $50

100 percent of the proceeds will go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

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Kendra Scott Metastatic Breast Cancer Necklace Charm Set In Rose Gold, $110

50 percent of the proceeds from every purchase of the Metastatic Breast Cancer Charm Necklace Set will support our Legacy Retreat through Inheritance of Hope for families with a parent battling metastatic breast cancer.

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Vineyard Vines 2019 Breast Cancer Awareness Long-Sleeve Pocket T-Shirt, $48

20 percent of all net proceeds will be donated to Bright Pink. 

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Bobbi Brown 2-Pc. Proud To Be Pink Lip Color Set, $45

Bobbi Brown Cosmetics will donate $24.00 from the purchase of each Proud to Be Pink Lip Color Duo to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation® (BCRF) from 9/9/19 to 6/30/20.

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Origins 2-Pc. Breast Cancer Awareness Limited Edition Blooming Bold Lipstick Set, $20

In support of The Estee Lauder Companies' Breast Cancer Campaign, Origins will donate 100 percent of the purchase price of this Limited Edition Blooming Bold Lipstick Set.

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True Religion Breast Cancer Awareness Tie Dye Sweatshirt, $99

15 percent of proceeds will be donated to the American Cancer Society.

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Not Today, Cancer set, $52

10 percent of profits from sales of this set support the Young Survival Coalition (YSC), who envisions “A world where no young adult faces breast cancer alone." 

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Donna Karan Cashmere Mist Breast Cancer Awareness Limited Edition Eau de Parfum, $120

Donna Karan Cosmetics will donate 20 percent of the SRP from the sale of this product to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

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David Yurman Cable Classics Bracelet with Morganite and 18K Rose Gold, $495

David Yurman is partnering with BCRF this October, launching an exclusive bracelet with 20% of proceeds going towards the non-profit.

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M. Gemi x Fuck Cancer Palestra, $228

15 percent of proceeds from the shoes, which are sold out now but are available for pre-order, will be donated to the organization Fuck Cancer. 100 percent of proceeds from the laces will also be donated.

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Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair with Pink Ribbon Bracelet, $100

With each purchase of this product, Estée Lauder will donate 20 percent of the suggested retail price to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

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Pura Vida Breast Cancer Awareness Bracelet, $32

10 percent of net sales will be donated to Boarding for Breast Cancer, a nonprofit that advocates for early detection and empowers young people to live a healthier lifestyle.

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Unode50 Zen Think Pink Bracelet, $140

20 percent of the proceeds from the sale of this bracelet will be donated to the Breast Cancer Research Group (GEICAM) to support its efforts in studying breast cancer.

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La Mer The Breast Cancer Campaign Cleansing Micellar Water, $55

La Mer will donate 30 percent from the purchase price of this limited edition, travel-size Cleansing Micellar Water with a maximum donation of $53,000 to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

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Aerie LIMITED-EDITION MOVE SPORTS BRA, $20.97 (orig. $34.95)

100% of US sales benefit Bright Pink®, a non-profit dedicated to prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancers in young women.

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Saucony Women's With Love Kinvara 10, $120

From September 9th – October 31st 20% of the proceeds directly benefit the Dr. Susan Love Foundation and their research.

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Brahmin SYDNEY BCA, $375

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Brahmin brought back a favorite pink collection with a portion of proceeds benefitting the National Breast Cancer Foundation during the month of October.

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Ideology Breast Cancer Logo Leggings, $26.50

Now through October 31, 2019, Macy's will donate 20% of the sale price from this Ideology item to BCRF.

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ghd gold® ink on pink styler, $199 

$10 from every sale from the ink on pink collection goes to Living Beyond Breast Cancer.

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686 WOMEN'S GLCR GORE-TEX MOONLIGHT INSULATED JACKET, $359.95

Activewear brand 686 is on a mission to board for breast cancer (literally!) with their Moonlight Jacket and will donate $18 from every jacket sold to BOARDING FOR BREAST CANCER (B4BC) a nonprofit foundation providing breast cancer education, prevention, and survivor support programs for young people. 

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Native Peony & Jasmine Tea Deodorant, $10.00

On October 5th & October 6th, Native will donate $1 per bar of deodorant sold to Fuck Cancer’s Personal Ink (P.ink) a program, dedicated to empowering women to reclaim their bodies after mastectomies.

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Lane Bryant LIVI Active Legging, $49.95

10 percent of each purchase goes to lifesaving research at the Breast Cancer Research Foundation! 

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Venus ET Fleur Breast Cancer Awareness Collection, $500

During the month of October, customers can select any large round or large square pink suede box and pair with any pink flower and the brand will donate 20% of proceeds from to City of Hope, a world leader in the research and treatment of cancer.

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Olay Limited Edition Regenerist Whip, $58.99

"We are donating 100 percent of US proceeds from this Regenerist Whip Pink Ribbon Face Moisturizer + Refill to benefit Bright Pink and their life-saving mission focused on the prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancer."

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Torrid BREAST CANCER AWARENESS - THE LIZ PINK 360° BACK SMOOTHING™ LIGHTLY LINED EVERYDAY WIRE-FREE BRA, $44.90

20 percent of net proceeds from this purchase will help fight Breast Cancer.

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Riley Versa bags, $50-$625

30 percent of all Riley Versa site-wide purchases (excluding the Sweat Pouch) will be donated to The Pink Agenda throughout the month of October.

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