Breast cancer vaccine shows promise, lacks funding
Last year I heard an amazing story on NPR. Dr. Vincent Tuohy, an immunologist at The Cleveland Clinic was developing a vaccine to prevent breast cancer. Last year, Dr. Tuohy released his findings: a first-of-its-kind vaccine to prevent breast cancer, which has shown extremely favorable results in animal models. The researchers found that a single vaccination prevents breast cancer tumors from forming in mice, while also inhibiting the growth of already existing tumors.
Dr. Tuohy and his research team targeted α-lactalbumin — a protein found in the majority of breast cancers, but is not found in healthy women, except during lactation. The vaccine can cause a woman’s immune system to target α-lactalbumin — thus stopping tumor formation — without damaging healthy breast tissue. In the study, genetically cancer-prone mice were vaccinated — half with a vaccine containing α-lactalbumin and half with a vaccine that did not contain the antigen. None of the mice vaccinated with α-lactalbumin developed breast cancer, while all of the other mice did.
Earlier this month, I traveled to Cleveland Clinic for a book signing at Joseph Beth Booksellers located in the hospital’s main building. Jack Gray, who is featured in From Incurable to Incredible, came up to join me. I invited Dr. Tuohy and he graciously hung out with us at our table and later gave us a private tour of his lab. It was fascinating to see the work of his team and learn that they are also working on a vaccine to prevent ovarian cancer.
And it’s not because the research holds no promise. Tuohy and his team at Cleveland Clinic worked on the vaccine for eight years before he published the paper this year that made such a splash. The study showed that the vaccine was 100 percent effective in preventing breast cancer in a group of mice specially bred to develop the disease. The vaccine also stopped the growth of existing tumors. Imagine, breast cancer being prevented and eventually eliminated as polio was with a vaccine!
Recently, I received an email from fellow breast cancer survivor Judy Fitzgerald who has formed Sisters for Prevention a non-profit organization to support Dr. Tuohy’s research. To see how you can help, go to http://sisters4prevention.com or directly to Dr. Tuohy’s website by clicking HERE.
Speaking of help, thanks to all of your support, I was recently named one of the Top Ten Influential Breast Cancer Bloggers on Twitter! To see the entire list, click HERE.