We have had a longstanding interest in understanding the precise self-recognition events involved in initiation and progression of autoimmune diseases and in developing novel therapeutic strategies that prevent disease progression. In these pursuits we have developed and characterized autoimmune animal models for several human diseases including multiple sclerosis, heart failure, sudden hearing loss, infertility, prostatitis, interstitial cystitis/pelvic pain syndrome, and breast failure. However, more recently, we have focused our attention on harnessing and focusing the full strength of the autoimmune response to provide safe and effective immunity against the development of diseases we confront with age. As such we have pioneered the concept of ‘immunoprevention’ of breast cancer by providing proof-of-principle that safe and effective protection against the development of breast cancer may be induced by vaccination against ‘retired’ self-proteins that are no longer expressed with age at immunogenic levels in any normal tissues but are overexpressed in newly invigorated emerging breast tumors. Thus, ‘retired’ proteins may substitute for unavailable pathogens as targets for developing prophylactic immunity against tumors we confront with age like breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer.
Our laboratory is currently involved in bringing our ‘immunoprevention’ strategy from bench-to-bedside in clinical trials designed to prevent the more aggressive and lethal forms of breast cancer.