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Cleveland Clinic Spin-Off Developing Breast Cancer Vaccine

Vincent Tuohy

Vincent Tuohy (Cleveland Clinic)

Shield Biotech, a spin-off company from the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, is creating a vaccine to prevent breast cancer based on research conducted at the clinic’s research institute. Vincent Tuohy, a Cleveland Clinic immunologist, founded the company with the clinic’s commercialization division, and serves as its chief scientist.

Tuohy’s research seeks to find a method for protecting against triple-negative breast cancer that has higher recurrence rates than other forms of breast cancer and, at present, there is no specific therapy. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, triple-negative breast cancer accounts for 10 to 20 percent of breast cancer cases and more likely affects younger people, African Americans, Hispanics, or those with a BRCA1 gene mutation.

The vaccine in development targets the immune system, to stimulate antibodies that counteract proteins overproduced in tissue with triple-negative breast cancer. In research published in 2010, Tuohy and colleagues tested the vaccine in lab mice genetically altered to develop breast cancer. The findings showed the vaccine prevented tumors from occuring in the mice, and inhibited the growth of existing breast tumors.

Shield Biotech plans to conduct further preclinical studies as well as human clinical trials of the vaccine. Early stage clinical trials, expected to begin in 2015, will first test for safety and the ability to generate an immune response among women who were previously treated with chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery.

A second set of early trials will test the vaccine in cancer-free women who chose voluntary bilateral mastectomy to lower their breat cancer risk. Both sets of trials will require Food and Drug Administration approval to test the vaccine as an investigational new drug.

A separate statement from Cleveland Clinic says Shield Biotech secured funding “from all kinds of sources” but neither the amounts nor sources were disclosed.

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