The words “breast cancer vaccine” sound kind of surreal and unbelievable, don’t they? Could it really be possible that this cancer – which has taken so many women from us – could someday be prevented by a simple vaccine? And might that day come sooner than we think?
It could. In fact, it’s working in mice. Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute, published in the journal Nature Medicine, have developed a vaccine that is preventing breast cancer tumors in mice. They will move soon to conduct trials in humans.
"If it works in humans the way it works in mice, this will be monumental,” said Vincent Tuohy, the immunologist who led the research. “We could eliminate breast cancer."
From BBC News:
In the study, genetically cancer-prone mice were vaccinated - half with a vaccine containing á-lactalbumin and half with a vaccine that did not contain the antigen.
None of the mice vaccinated with á-lactalbumin developed breast cancer, while all of the other mice did.
"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,” Tuohy said.
What’s so world-changing about the possibility is this: Previously, the two cancer vaccines approved by the United States target cancers that are caused by viruses, which are foreign invaders to the human body. Cervical cancer vaccines target the human papillomavirus (HPV) and liver cancer vaccines target the Hepatitis B virus (HBV). But breast cancer is not caused by a virus. It, like other more traditional cancers, happens when the body’s own cell growth mutates and overdevelops.
The trickiness of developing such a vaccine is that it must not attack the body’s own immune system even while it targets the cause of a possible cancer.
It will be several years before any such vaccine could be available to the public. And experts are predictably cautious.
Duke oncologist Dr. Victoria Seewaldt told WRAL.com in Raleigh-Durham that cancers have been cured in mice before but that those protocols failed to work on people.