October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a campaign designed to raise awareness about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, and to help women and families find the resources they need if they are fighting cancer. Imagine, for a minute, how different things could be if October was National Breast Cancer Vaccine Month, instead.
As it turns out, it could be – thanks to Dr. Vincent Tuohy of the Cleveland Clinic. For the last 15 years, Dr. Tuohy has struggled to find funding for vaccines that could eradicate breast and ovarian cancers. Fresh Water Cleveland reports:
“If Tuohy’s lab results are any indication [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][of a vaccine that works], he may be well on his way. Over the last two years, Tuohy has been conducting animal research by transgenically manipulating mice to develop breast cancer within 10 months of age. Some of the mice were vaccinated at two months old, while others were not given vaccines. ‘At 10 months, none [of the vaccinated mice] had tumors, and all of the control mice had tumors,’ says Tuohy, who has replicated the same results three times with success.”
A vaccine that prevents breast cancer; that’s 40,000 lives saved. A vaccine that can prevent ovarian cancer; that’s another 15,000 women saved from death. A total of 55,000 lives could be saved every year.
Why doesn’t anyone want to fund this extraordinary research?
It all comes down to money. The National Cancer Institute gives five times more money to treatment than it does to prevention, and they’re not the only ones. Science is so focused on curing the disease once it develops, that it has largely ignored the idea of preventing that development in the first place.
Another concern, especially when it comes to cancer funding, is that “cancer” is not a disease – it’s hundreds of diseases, and those illnesses can be further split within each group. For example, the type of cancer Dr. Tuohy’s vaccine would target is called Triple Negative Breast Cancer – a cancer responsible for about 50% of all breast cancer-related deaths (though it only accounts for between 16% and 20% of all breast cancers.)
But once you have a vaccine that works for one, you can create different vaccines that would target others. And thanks to the efforts of a number of grassroots organizations, Dr. Tuohy was given a $6 million grant from the Department of Defense, of all things, to pursue his research. His paper about his work with a vaccine for ovarian cancer is scheduled to be published in the peer-reviewed journal Society of Cancer Research next month.
Help make a breast cancer vaccine a reality
The Cleveland community has stepped up efforts to help Dr. Tuohy, but this type of scientific breakthrough takes time, effort and money. One of the programs that supports Dr. Tuohy’s efforts is Brakes for Breasts – an organization made up of more than 100 independent auto shops throughout the country, and started by two women from Cleveland. The Women Who Care About Breast Cancer Coalition, founded by Dr. Marjorie Moyar and Race for the Cure organizer Susan Larson, is also helping in the fight for funding, and has worked with organizations like Daughters of Penelope, the Philoptochos Society, and the Junior League.
Let’s all do our part this year in the fight against breast cancer. Supporting the work of Dr. Tuohy’s vaccines could ensure that he meets his goal of clinical trials in 2018. We hope you’ll join us in helping him achieve that goal, and finding a way to prevent breast and ovarian cancer for good.
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