American scientists say they have developed a vaccine which has prevented breast cancer from developing in mice. The immunologist who led the research says the vaccine targets a protein found in most breast tumours.
Vincent Tuohy, from the Cleveland Clinic Learner Research Institute, said: “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.
“If it works in humans the way it works in mice, this will be monumental. We could eliminate breast cancer.”
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.
The US has approved two cancer-prevention vaccines, one against cervical cancer and one against liver cancer.
However, these vaccines target viruses – the human papillomavirus (HPV) and the Hepatitis B virus (HBV) – not cancer formation itself.
Cancer Research UK’s professor of oncology, Robert Hawkins, said: “This very early study describes an interesting approach to the prevention of breast cancer.
“It will be several years before this vaccine can be tested fully to assess its safety and effectiveness as a way to stop the disease developing in women.”