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Talking to Tuohy: Breast cancer vaccine raises hope

Posted Nov 01 2010 12:00am
November 8, 2010 - Posted by tamilb
Breast cancer vaccine gives us hope for the future.

Breast cancer vaccine gives us hope for the future.

One of the most exciting things about being chosen as one of the Bright Starts Pink Power Mom  finalists was learning I’d receive $5,000 to the charity of my choice. I was drawn to Dr. Vincent Tuohy’s breast cancer vaccine research at Cleveland Clinic after reading so much about it in the news.

I figured I’d get a form letter from the hospital’s development office to thank me for the gift. What a shock to receive a call from Dr. Tuohy himself! He told me that receiving the check really made his day and gave him much-needed encouragement. Dr. Tuohy has been desperately seeking funds for his project, approaching senators, congress people and venture capitalists.

You see, finding a great discovery is just the tip of the iceberg. The real challenge is translating these discoveries into a cure. Scientists have a name for it–”the valley of death”– because so many discoveries don’t move forward and die because of lack of funding.  Luckily, the problem is starting to be addressed by the Cures Acceleration Network (CAN),  part of the the health care bill that passed. but it’s still an uphill battle to get funding.

And it’s not because the research holds no promise.  Tuohy and his team at Cleveland Clinic worked on the vaccine for eight years before he published the paper this year that made such a splash. The study showed that the vaccine was 100 percent effective in preventing breast cancer in a group of mice specially bred to develop the disease.  The vaccine also stopped the growth of existing tumors.

Of course, I asked Dr. Tuohy about metastatic disease. He told me it may work in conjunction with other therapies for existing breast cancers of all types, but its focus is on prevention. Still I think of my daughter and imagine a future when I wouldn’t have to worry about her getting this dreaded disease.

As I spoke with him, I was so impressed with his drive and passion to eradicate this disease.  As I write,Dr. Tuohy is in Ireland meeting with venture capitalists to seek funding so he get to Phase I of clinical trial testing on humans.

You’d think he would be lauded by everyone for his diligent efforts, but Dr. Tuohy has been criticized by folks in the medical and scientific community for raising “hopes too high.”

“I’m pleased and delighted we’re raising hope,” he said. “We all need hope. To me, it’s essential.”

To learn more and  donate to the vaccine research, go to Dr. Tuohy’s web site .

PS: I’m off to Indianapolis for a series of book signings for From Incurable to Incredible. If you’re in the area, stop by and say hi! Here’s an article in the Indy Star that lists my appearances:


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