Cleveland Clinic looking for funding to study breast cancer vaccine in humans

Cleveland Clinic is seeking funding for human trials of a vaccine that could prevent the formation of breast cancer.

Clinic immunologist Vincent Tuohy made a splash about two years ago, when his research on the vaccine was published in the journal Nature Medicine. The research showed that the vaccine prevented breast cancer in 100 percent of mice genetically engineered to develop a breast tumor. In a group of mice that did not get vaccinated, all developed tumors.

Now, Tuohy is ready to begin testing the vaccine on humans, but that’ll require funding for expensive clinical trials. The Clinic estimates that it’ll require $6 million to complete phase 1 studies of the vaccine, according to Cleveland Clinic Innovations’ inaugural newsletter.


“With Vince, we are reaching out to both strategic and financial investors to identify partners for licensing or investments in a new company,” said Neil Veloso, deputy director of commercialization for Innovations.

Tuohy is also being considered for a U.S. Department of Defense grant, according to the newsletter. The researcher is open to funding from private and government sources, as well as foundations.

A Cleveland Clinic spokeswoman declined to provide further information on the health system’s plans around the breast cancer vaccine.

Tuohy is working on a similar approach to a vaccine for preventing ovarian cancer.

“Our research definitely represents a paradigm shift away from the conventional therapeutic model,” Tuohy said. “We believe we can vaccinate against breast cancer and other cancers the way we vaccinated against polio.”

Tuohy isn’t the only one pursuing a breast cancer vaccine.

Clinical trials started earlier this year on another breast cancer vaccine — one aimed at breast cancer patients who have been treated and are in remission. That vaccine was developed by a surgical oncologist at San Antonio Military Medical Center.

Also, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania earlier this year reported that a vaccine made partly from a patient’s own cells was successful in eradicating tumors for some women with an early type of breast cancer.

Both of those vaccines, though, appear to fall short of what Tuohy is proposing: a vaccine that prevents cancer from forming in the first place.

[Photo from flickr user *Zoha.N]

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