Cleveland Clinic doctor gets huge grant to continue breast cancer vaccine research

CLEVELAND-- Meet the mastermind behind a medical game-changer that could ultimately eradicate breast cancer, not only here in the U.S., but the world.

Inside a quiet lab in Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Immunology, Vincent Tuohy, Ph.D. has been hard at work since 2002, researching and creating a breast cancer vaccine.

It will soon be in phase one of clinical trials to determine proper dosage and safety.

"It targets a protein that's found in most or vast majority of what are called triple-negative breast cancer. Triple-negative is the most lethal form of breast cancer," Dr. Tuohy said.

Tuohy said it is also the form of breast cancer that women get if they have a genetic mutation in their BRCA-1 genes, which has many women opting to be proactive, undergoing double mastectomy.

"We do about 50 voluntary mastectomies here a year at the Cleveland Clinic and it's a horrible thing for women to go through. It’s a life changing event for them. I think a vaccine would be a much more civilized way for controlling their problem,” Tuohy said.

He said up until this point, it had been an uphill battle financially and convincing his colleagues that the vaccine would actually work.

While the medical community had been slow in embracing Dr. Tuohy's vision, he has cultivated a strong following of supporters here in Cleveland, raising awareness, and most importantly, research dollars.

Marjorie Moyar and Susan Larson are co-chairs of Women Who Care About Breast Cancer, a group formed to raise funds for Dr. Tuohy’s research.

In five years, the group has raised more than $150,000.

"We all have friends, acquaintances, family members who have been touched by breast cancer," Moyer said.

More good news: Tuohy just received a $6 million grant from the Department of Defense towards his mission.

"We need defense, and the best defense for these cancers, I think, is a vaccine that prevents it."

Once clinical trials begin, it could take up to 10 years before the breast cancer vaccine would be made available to the masses.

But despite the long journey, it will hopefully lead to a well-developed adult vaccination program for generations to come.