Diane Altenburg: Entering a Vaccine Trial

July 18, 2013 at 5:28 pm Leave a comment

Diane Altenberg

Diane Altenberg

In 2005, breast cancer survivor Diane Altenburg enrolled in the phase II trial of NeuVax.

Q: When were you diagnosed with breast cancer and how were you treated?
A: My first diagnosis of breast cancer was in 2000, when I was 53. The tumor was in my right breast. I had a lumpectomy followed by radiation and then went on tamoxifen. I was in my fourth year of tamoxifen when I was diagnosed with cancer in my left breast. This time the cancer had already spread to my lymph nodes. I had a lumpectomy followed by radiation and chemotherapy and then started Arimidex.

Q: How did you hear about the NeuVax clinical trial?
A: I was treated at the Walter Reed National Military Center and my oncologist suggested that I participate. They wanted you to be as cancer-free as possible when you entered the trial, so you had to enroll within a month of finishing chemotherapy or radiation. It was the first time I had been in a clinical trial.

Q: What motivated you to take part?
A: After my first breast cancer diagnosis I became a patient advocate and in that volunteer role I worked with Walter Reed to develop its multidisciplinary breast care center. This was in 2001, when hospitals were just starting to develop centers where women could be seen by all of their doctors instead of having to go to a number of different places. It was a new way of looking at breast cancer care, and getting involved was my way of giving back. When I was diagnosed the second time, my doctor told me that I’d be a good candidate for the trial and taking part was my way of helping other women so that they wouldn’t have to deal with this.

Q: Was was it like being in the trial?
A: There were between 60 and 80 women in the trial at Walter Reed. It was the easiest thing. The hardest part was driving 30 miles through traffic to get to Walter Reed, which was then in Washington, DC, from my home in Virginia. I had to go there to get the vaccine and then go back again a few days later, when they took a blood sample and measured the size of the welt at the injection site. The welt looked like a mosquito bite, except a bit bigger. There was no pain at all. I got a little tired in the afternoon, but there was nothing that I had to give up.

Q: Would you encourage women to take part in the phase III trial?
A: Absolutely. I would do it all again.

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Entry filed under: Personal Stories, Vaccines.

Calendar/Events: Summer 2013 Q & A with Elizabeth Mittendorf: A Vaccine to Prevent Recurrence

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