Cleveland Clinic Researchers Closer To Breast Cancer Vaccine

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Researchers could be on the cusp of a major breakthrough in the fight against breast cancer. A group of researchers in Cleveland say they are one step closer to developing a vaccine for breast cancer.

Cleveland Clinic researchers say the breast cancer vaccine prototype has shown overwhelming success in lab animals.

Many vaccines target a virus, but in the case of breast cancer there is no virus- which has been a hurdle for researchers. The study’s principal researcher and immunologist Vincent Tuohy said the group has created a vaccine prototype that targets a protein. The protein alpa-lactalbumin is found in most breast cancers.

“The idea here, is if we can target an immune response to alpha-lactalbumin, then we could have an immunity against breast tumors,” he said.

In theory, the breast cancer vaccine would be for women 40 and older – for two reasons: a woman’s risk for breast cancer increases rapidly after age 40, and most women are finished with child bearing by that age.

That’s because alpha-lactalbumin is the protein that causes healthy women to lactate. And if women take the vaccine they cannot produce breast milk.

“There’s a clear inability for the woman to breastfeed her offspring. And if she attempted to do it, she would probably as her physician to intervene with hormone therapy to stop the lactation because her breasts are going to be hurting. She’s going to be in a substantial amount of pain,” Tuohy said.

Tuohy said the vaccine could be an option for high-risk younger women who are considering a double-mastectomy. Tuohy said human trials could begin as soon as next year, but a marketable vaccine is years away.