News
News Home
Quick Bites
Exploradio
News Archive
News Channel
Special Features
NPR
nowplaying
On AirNewsClassical
Loading...
  
School Closings
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.

Hennes Paynter Communications

Greater Akron Chamber


For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )


Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us
Health and Medicine




Exploradio: Breast cancer vaccine targets 'retired' protein
A novel approach to cancer prevention teaches the body's immune system to target tumors, but a breast cancer vaccine may be too far outside the box for mainstream funders
by WKSU's JEFF ST. CLAIR
This story is part of a special series.


Reporter / Host
Jeff St. Clair
 
October is breast cancer awareness month. But a Cleveland Clinic researcher has had a hard time attracting research dollars. That is, until local donors stepped in to fund Vincent Tuohy's idea for a breast cancer vaccine.
Courtesy of Richard Taylor Flickr CC
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:

A Cleveland scientist has devised a novel approach to treating breast cancer.

But in this week' Exploradio, WKSU' Jeff St.Clair reports that the hardest part of Vincent Tuohy' work has been getting fellow researchers to believe cancer prevention is possible.

 

Exploradio: Breast cancer vaccine

Other options:
Windows Media / MP3 Download (4:18)


Mane of white hair inspires retired proteins

Cleveland Clinic researcher Vincent Tuohy’s inspiration for a breast cancer vaccine came from an unlikely source, "a man with a beautiful mane of white hair.”

It was a true eureka moment, according to Tuohy, because while admiring the man's full head of hair he came up with his, "retired protein hypothesis.”

Tuohy realized that as we age, specific tissues, like the pigment cells in the man’s hair, stop making certain proteins.  “They become retired,” according to Tuohy.

He theorized that if abnormal tissues like tumors produce these retired proteins, they could be targeted by the body's own immune system.

Having spent a carrier studying auto-immune diseases, Tuohy knew T-cells could be trained to recognized retired proteins that often occur in tumor cells, but rarely in healthy tissues, “That’s what cancer vaccines are, they’re auto-immune vaccines.”

He soon found a protein in lactating breast tissue that is not expressed in post-menopausal women, or in women without children.  But breast tumors in the mouse models Tuohy studied do express it.  It’s called alpha-lactalbumin.

 

Targeting alph-lactalbumin in the lab

In his lab, Tuohy gives the fifteen second version of how the lactalbumin protein is made while grad student Justin Johnson shows the proper technique to make vaccines to test in mice. Johnson says it takes around an hour to to get it mixed right.

“We take a gene, we cut the gene, we put it in the vector, we have the vector stuck in the bacteria, the bacteria grow, they make the protein, we purify the protein from the bacteria, and that’s our target protein.”

 The lactalbumin vaccine was tested on mice bred to develop breast cancer at an early age.  Tuohy says the results in the vaccinated mice were dramatic, "none of the mice had tumors at 10 months of age."  But he says in the control mice that were not immunized with the protein, "100 percent of them had tumors.”

The discovery gained international attention in 2010 when Tuohy first published his results in the journal Nature Medicine.  But not all of it positive.

 

“There’s been a lot of pushback.”

Tuohy feels he got the cold shoulder from the cancer research community. He says his idea of targeting retired proteins in tumors was out of their box, "because nobody believed you could make a vaccine that could prevent breast cancer," and he was an from another field.

Tuohy had spent his career studying auto-immune diseases like MS. In his prior research he harnessed the immune system to attack retired cells in other organ systems.  But Tuohy's outsider status has made it hard for him to raise money from major breast cancer funders.  He’s 0-15 in grant requests in the three years since his paper was published.  He says, "I’m doing the best work of my career and I get turned down.

Shield Biotech leads clinical trials

But local supporters, some anonymous, have stepped up to cover the $6 million needed to begin testing Tuohy’s breast cancer vaccine in humans.  Last month the Cleveland Clinic’s business creation arm launched Shield Biotech to manage clinical trials that could cost upwards of $100 million over the next decades.

Tuohy sees his work as the first step in filling a hole in our approach to age related diseases, the lack of a vaccine program for adults.  "It’s ridiculous,” says Tuohy.

He says the research establishment is so focused on cancer treatment, that the idea of cancer prevention has yet to take hold.

“The hardest thing I’ve had to do is not develop the vaccine, [but] convince people that what they thought was impossible is possible.”

Tuohy and his team at the Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute are hoping their breast cancer vaccine will pave the way for treating and preventing other diseases. He’s currently developing vaccines targeting retired proteins in prostate, ovarian and other cancers.

(Click image for larger view.)

Add Your Comment
Name:

Location:

E-mail: (not published, only used to contact you about your comment)


Comments:




 
Page Options

Print this page

E-Mail this page / Send mp3

Share on Facebook



Support for Exploradio
provided by:








Stories with Recent Comments

Study shows raising the cigarette tax a dollar could raise $342 million
So, it takes an expert to tell us raising the tobacco tax raises the revenue for the state? Doh. By the way, any one who was going to quit smoking probably alre...

Akron's Highland Square celebrates community spirit and public art
Both Donna and her husband, Joseph are both such amazing art talents! The photos look stunning! I must get down to Angel Falls for an in-person look. I just l...

Pluto: Another off-season, another Browns quarterback conundrum
The Browns do need a draftable QB for the future. Johnny Manziel needs to go and that leaves Brian Hoyer and Connor Shaw. Free agency doesn't really have any so...

Exploradio: Improving the lives of paralyzed people
God bless you doctor. I hope to be alive the day that humans, like me, can use the results of your search...

Nature and nourishment down by the river at the Metroparks' Merwin's Wharf
I love QUICKBITES! I look forward to it every week. One question: is it possible to include a link to the restaurant or store that you profile? Thanks!

Canton's proposed Timken-McKinley school merger is drawing spirited debate
From a sports opinion Varsity would have a lot more talent to choose from So Im sure varsity sports would improve.Also Timkens name would be much more published...

Canton school board will decide whether to merge high schools
I really hope we can save those jobs, usually we try to cut budgets but the demand is still the same. Then we look bad a year or two after the descion is made. ...

FirstEnergy wants PUCO guarantees on nuclear and coal prices
Would just comment that the plant has admitted the following (as reporting in the Akron Beacon Journal): "The utility has said it may have difficulty keeping t...

Mozzarella's easy when you have a way with curd
Hello, Where can I get such a heater that you have? Does it hold temperature that you set? What brand and model is it? Thank you in advance!! :)

Pluto: A healthy LeBron James is the key for the rocky Cavs
It's time to back our Cleveland professional teams through thick and thin. I've seen management, players and coaches come and go and it hasn't changed a thing. ...

Copyright © 2015 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

 
In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University