Good question! Thanks for asking it, Stephie Zimmerman of the Anti-cancer Club. Stephie is an oncology nurse and a childhood cancer survivor, and a razor-sharp interviewer. She asked me this question yesterday when we were discussing the preventive breast cancer vaccine developed in 2010 by Professor Vincent Tuohy of the Cleveland Clinic. (Here’s the link to the paper he published about his vaccine in Nature Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3095829/)

Tuohy’s experiments involved female mice only. So we can’t say for sure that his vaccine would work in male mice, or in men for that matter. However, Tuohy’s vaccine targets a protein that is commonly found in triple-negative breast cancer, the most common form of the disease in women who carry the BRCA mutation. Since men who carry the same BRCA mutation have a high risk of breast cancer also, it would be interesting to see if Tuohy’s vaccine would benefit them as well as women.

The first phase I trials testing Tuohy’s vaccine in women should proceed this year, pending approval from the FDA.

As an aside, only about 2000 men develop breast cancer in the United States every year. Thus, universal vaccination of men using Tuohy’s vaccine – should it prove to be safe and effective for use in humans – would probably not make sense given that there are relatively few cases of male breast cancer in the country. On the other hand, those men who are at an increased risk for breast cancer because of a family history of BRCA mutations could be easily identified and given the vaccine because they would be the very men who would benefit from it.

A vaccine to prevent breast cancer that targets the breast cancer virus, however, would be beneficial for both men and women. The virus can be passed between men and women according to a recent study published in Europe. (Check out this link to read the paper about that: bit.ly/MTVSaliva) I wonder which will occur first, the complete melting of the polar ice caps or the completion of the research on the human breast cancer virus. Sad to say, but it looks like the ice is melting faster than the academic community is moving on this research.

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