A prophylactic vaccine that targets alpha-lactalbumin ― a protein expressed in most human breast tumours ― helps control and prevent tumour growth in mice mammary glands. The findings, published online in this week's Nature Medicine, may help in eliminating cancer cells while avoiding damage to normal tissue.
Alpha-lactalbumin is only expressed in lactating mammary glands. Vincent Tuohy and colleagues formed a vaccine that targets this specific protein in mice, thus not harming normal mammary tissue that lacks the protein.
These results suggest that prophylactic tumour vaccines that induce immunity to differentiation-specific antigens ― such as alpha-lactalbumin ― might be a feasible strategy for preventing breast cancer while avoiding damage to healthy tissue.