US Breast Cancer Vaccine's Test on Mice Proving 'Spectacular' Research Suggesting a Vaccine against Breast Cancer Has Been Successful in Mice Have Raised the Prospect of an End to the Disease. Health Editor Madeleine Brindley Reports

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), June 1, 2010 | Go to article overview

US Breast Cancer Vaccine's Test on Mice Proving 'Spectacular' Research Suggesting a Vaccine against Breast Cancer Has Been Successful in Mice Have Raised the Prospect of an End to the Disease. Health Editor Madeleine Brindley Reports


Byline: Madeleine Brindley

THE holy grail of cancer research has been one of two things - to find a cure for cancer or to be able to prevent it from developing in the first place.

It would appear that a team of scientists in the US has achieved the latter of those two aims, bringing with it hopes of a major breakthrough in breast cancer.

The "spectacular" results of tests on a vaccine to prevent breast cancer have showed "overwhelmingly favourable results" in mice, not only preventing cancers from forming in the first place but also stopping existing tumours from growing.

The lead researcher, immunologist Dr Vincent Tuohy, who is based at the Cleveland Clinic, in the US, said: "We believe that this vaccine will some day be used to prevent breast cancer in adult women in the same way that vaccines have prevented many childhood diseases.

"If it works in humans the way it works in mice, this will be monumental. We could eliminate breast cancer."

The idea of being able to vaccinate against cancer is not a new one - for the last two years all girls are being offered the first of three doses of a vaccine that protects against the cause of some 75% of all cervical cancers.

The human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine, which offers protection against two strains of the virus most commonly associated with cervical cancer, is also being offered to older teenage girls as part of a catch-up campaign.

The HPV jab will not prevent all cervical cancers but it is hoped the vaccine will drastically cut not only the number of women who are diagnosed with the disease every year but also the number of women who die from cervical cancer.

Unlike the HPV jab, which targets a virus, the breast cancer vaccine being tested in the US appears to work in a different way by targeting the cancer itself.

According to the research, which is published in this month's edition of the journal Nature Medicine, it makes the immune system attack a particular protein found in most breast cancer cells and the mammary tissues of breastfeeding women.

If the human tests do prove successful, it is thought the immunisation strategy would be to vaccinate women aged over 40 - when breast cancer risk begins to increase and pregnancy becomes less likely.

"The frequency of women who breast feed in their early 40s and above is very low, so we are looking at vaccinating women against the disease from this stage of life onwards," Dr Tuohy said.

For younger women with a heightened risk of breast cancer, the vaccine could even be an option to consider instead of prophylactic mastectomy. The number of women diagnosed with breast cancer has been increasing for the last 30 years, thanks to advances in treatment; better understanding of the disease and the introduction of regular screening for women aged between 50 and 70.

Almost two out of three women with breast cancer now survive their disease beyond 20 years. …

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US Breast Cancer Vaccine's Test on Mice Proving 'Spectacular' Research Suggesting a Vaccine against Breast Cancer Has Been Successful in Mice Have Raised the Prospect of an End to the Disease. Health Editor Madeleine Brindley Reports
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