Medical Minute 9-23: Breast Cancer Breakthroughs

By: Vanessa Welch Email
By: Vanessa Welch Email

A massage, a manicure, and a mammogram?

Doctors across the country are throwing mammogram parties and taking the fear out of mammogram screenings.

"We would like to see more women come out and participate in screening mammography. It saves lives," Mickey Jester, M.D., Radiologist, Provena St. Joseph's Medical Center

But mammograms may soon become passé when it comes to detection of the disease.
This experimental breakthrough breath test at Georgia Tech measures organic compounds breathed out from the lungs and identifies those associated with breast cancer.

"A patient could be told right away, 'Yes, it looks like something's there.'"
Says immunologist Vincent Tuohy, who hopes to kill breast cancer even before it can be found on a mammogram or in a breath test.

He adds by saying, "I thought the best thing to do is to try and prevent the tumor to appear to begin with."

At the Cleveland Clinic, Tuohy has developed the very first breast cancer vaccine.

"We targeted a self-protein that is expressed in most breast cancers but not in normal breast tissue."

In his research in the lab, the vaccine prevented the disease in 100 percent of the cases. The idea is to give this to women in their forties and fifties when they are most at risk of developing breast cancer.

"It's a giant deficiency in our health care. I think once I point it out, everyone says, 'Yeah, you're right,' but we haven't done a thing about it."
That is until now, the vaccine could change and save the lives of women around the world.

For more information on other series produced by Ivanhoe Broadcast News contact John Cherry at (407) 691-1500, jcherry@ivanhoe.com.

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MEDICAL BREAKTHROUGHS - RESEARCH SUMMARY

BACKGROUND: Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, exceeded only by lung cancer. Every year, millions of U.S. women have mammograms to determine if they have breast cancer. Death rates from breast cancer have been declining since about 1990, with larger decreases in women younger than 50. These decreases are believed to be the result of earlier detection through screening and increased awareness, as well as improved treatment. Even though breast cancer is primarily a disease of women, almost 1 percent of breast cancers occur in men. (SOURCE: www.cancer.org)

BREAST CANCER BREATH TEST: Investigators at Georgia Tech Research Institute have come up with an experimental test that measures organic compounds expelled from the lungs and identifies the ones linked to breast cancer. A pilot study shows the breast cancer breath test was nearly just as accurate as mammograms in terms of distinguishing cancer. With this test, a patient could find out right away if there is anything abnormal in their cells. The breath test is still experimental. Scientists believe the test could be a reality in the near future but will likely never replace the mammogram. Still, it may open the door for earlier intervention and regular testing for high-risk women, while offering breast cancer screening to women in third world countries.
(SOURCE: Georgia Tech Research Institute)

BREAST CANCER VACCINE: Vincent K. Tuohy, Ph.D., an immunologist and researcher in the department of immunology at the Cleveland Clinic's Lerner Research Institute, and his team, supported by the National Cancer Institute, have developed a first-of-its-kind vaccine that they hope could protect women from breast cancer. The vaccine targets women aged 40 and up and those with a high risk of the disease. Most previous attempts at cancer vaccines have targeted viruses or cancers that have already developed, but this approach attacks the tumor before it can develop.

The vaccine is designed to target a protein present in most breast cancers and breast milk and stop tumor formation without damaging healthy breast tissue. Human trials will begin this year, and the goal, if successful, is to vaccinate women over the age of 40 since breast cancer risk increases after 40. The research is happening in the U.S., Europe and Singapore. The vaccine has shown favorable results in animal models.
(SOURCE: Cleveland Clinic's Lerner Research Institute)

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Angie Kiska
Director of Media Relations
Cleveland Clinic
(216) 444-6002


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