It’s hard to believe the media didn’t scream this news from the rooftops: If things go according to plan for Dr. Vincent Tuohy and the Cleveland Clinic in the next decade, women over 40 and those at high risk will receive the first vaccine against breast cancer. A first-of-its-kind vaccine to prevent this horrendous disease has shown “overwhelmingly favorable results in mice,” said a release from the CC.
“We believe that this vaccine will someday be used to prevent breast cancer in adult women in the same way that vaccines have prevented many childhood diseases,” said Dr. Tuohy, an immunologist in the CC’s Lerner Research Institute. “If it works in humans the way it works in mice, this will be monumental. We could eliminate breast cancer.”
Unlike most other attempts at cancer vaccines, which target viruses or cancers that have already developed, Dr. Tuohy’s vaccine targets a lactation protein (alpha-lactalbumin) that is expressed in most tumors but not in normal breast tissue. In his study, genetically cancer-prone mice were vaccinated—half with a vaccine containing the protein and half without it. None of the mice that received the protein developed breast cancer, while all of the other mice did. Breast cancer is not associated with any virus.
Dr. Tuohy recently met with members of Congress and others to secure funding for a clinical trial at the CC. It takes just under 10 years to go from the pre-clinical trial phase to phase 3 clinical trials. Trials cost about $16 million.