Breast cancer vaccine shows promise, lacks funding

Dr. Vincent Tuohy took the time to give us a tour of his lab, where he is developing vaccines to prevent breast and ovarian cancer.

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.

I was so impressed, I decided to designate the $5,000 I received as a 2010 Pink Power Mom finalist to his research. I was very surprised when I received a phone call from Dr. Tuohy to personally thank me for the donation.

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.

I’ve spoken with Dr. Tuohy several times about his frustration of gaining funding for the monumental task of getting the vaccine to human trial. You see, finding a great discovery is just the tip of the iceberg. The real challenge is translating these discoveries into a cure. Dr. Tuohy has been desperately seeking funds for his project, approaching senators, congress people and venture capitalists. But he has been turned down by Komen for the Cure and other funders.

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 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.



  1. Gigi
    Feb 24, 2013

    Why wouldn’t everyone fund this? This affects 1/2 of the planet.


  2. Charley
    Mar 29, 2012

    Big Pharma will NEVER allow this to be given to women because it is a CURE and will end their decades of butchering and killing women with breast cancer. God help Dr. Tuohy and God help us WOMEN!!

  3. tamilb
    Oct 27, 2011

    Thanks Shelia! It couldn’t hurt to contact your congressman. It might be a good idea to pressure Komen, too. Afterall, they say they are ‘for the cure!” He really needs major funds to get this to clinical trial.

  4. Sheila Harder
    Oct 27, 2011

    This is very exciting! I had heard about the research but did not know who was behind it! It just is amazing that he was so available to you and so directly involved with receiving your donation. Should we contact our congressmen and put pressure on them to back this research? I will check out the sisters4prevention and his website so thank you so much for this valuable info! Tami – in case you did not know it – you rock!

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