Science is local: preventing breast cancer

The early lake-effect snow and frigid temperatures did not temper the enthusiasm of Bert and Marjorie Moyar of Cleveland Heights. The couple opened their home to more than 30 guests on Nov. 19 to support one of their favorite local scientists, Vincent Tuohy of Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute. Tuohy and his research team, who seek to cure breast cancer through prevention, discussed the development of a vaccine that should be ready for human trials by the end of 2015.

Vaccines have been around for hundreds of years to inoculate against such illnesses as smallpox, diphtheria, measles and polio. Each year, medical researchers tweak the influenza vaccine to help prevent flu epidemics.

When it comes to cancer, however, most research focuses on treatments rather than on prevention. Marjorie Moyar founded Women Who Care About Breast Cancer Coalition to support Tuohy in his development of a breast cancer vaccine. Soon after founding the coalition, Susan Larson joined Moyar as co-chair.

Tuohy began working on breast cancer immuno-prevention in 2002. After more than a decade of cutting edge—and at times controversial—research, he believes his vaccine is ready for human trials. His team has identified both necessary components of the vaccine: the immune target and the adjuvant (or immune irritant) that triggers a reaction to prevent the disease. Specifically, his research shows that the breast cancer vaccine being developed at Cleveland Clinic should be most effective in treating and preventing triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). TNBC refers to tumors that lack the three most common types of hormone receptors, and, therefore, do not respond to hormonal therapies.

With the help of generous donors, women's organizations, and the Cleveland Clinic's Lerner Research Institute, Tuohy has developed a preventive breast cancer vaccine, tested it on animal models, and is in the process of applying for FDA approval for testing in humans.

Scientific discovery and philanthropy of all kinds were discussed in the warmth of the Moyar’s living room. At a time when research funding is hard to come by, scientists can become discouraged. But it was hard to feel discouraged surrounded by people who care about breast cancer. There was singing, laughter, reflection, and an overwhelming sense that prevention is close. For those who gathered on that wintry evening in Cleveland Heights, science is local.

For more information about Vincent Tuohy’s research, or to become involved in Women Who Care About Breast Cancer, go to, or call Shawna Hofstetter, senior director of development of the Lerner Research Institute, at 216-445-8523. 

Jenn Lonzer

Jenn Lonzer is a freelance health journalist living in Cleveland Heights, and a member of Women Who Care About Breast Cancer.

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Volume 8, Issue 1, Posted 12:07 PM, 01.03.2015