Findings from a study published in Nature Medicine conducted by researchers at Cleveland Clinicâ€™s Lerner Research Institute attracted lots of attention after the Instituteâ€™s public relations department issued a press release that shouted, â€œCleveland Clinic Researchers Develop Prototype Vaccine To Prevent Breast Cancer: Research Could Lead to First Vaccine to Prevent Breast Cancer Formation in Women over Age 40 and Women at High Risk.â€
The press release pronounced that the â€œfirst-of-its-kind vaccine to prevent breast cancer has shown overwhelmingly favorable results in animal models,â€ and quoted Vincent Tuohy, PhD, the study’s principal investigator, saying, â€œWe believe that this vaccine will someday be used to prevent breast cancer in adult women in the same way that vaccines prevent polio and measles in children. If it works in humans the way it works in mice, this will be monumental. We could eliminate breast cancer.”
The media responded in droves, resulting in hundreds of international headlines like â€œVaccine Appears to Prevent Breast Cancer in Miceâ€ and â€œExperts Praise Promise of Breast Cancer Vaccine.â€
It made me want to shout, â€œDonâ€™t believe the hype!â€
A few stories, like this one in USA Today went beyond the press release and included quotes from experts noting that â€œmany drugs appear promising in mice, but very few succeed in humans.â€ But many more left women thinking that a vaccine to prevent breast cancer was just around the corner. (It certainly didnâ€™t help that Dr. Tuohy was quoted as saying that enrollment for clinical trials in human patients could begin next year.)
Thankfully, the National Breast Cancer Coalition was quick to post a story on its website Know Breast Cancer that clearly described the study and that explained why many more studies will need to be done before its even known whether this approach should be studied in humans.
I encourage you to share this blog and their analysis with anyone who tells you that they just heard a breast cancer vaccine is just around the corner!