A unique cancer vaccine has moved into clinical trials on humans just recently.
This new treatment works in a way that it uses engineered mRNA to target solid tumors, which is a big step forward not only for cancer treatment, but also for personalized medicine. Each vaccine is unique as it’s tailored for each patient and the tumor.
This trial will be carried out by “Moderna Therapeutics”. The first Phase of the trial will look primarily at the safety of the vaccine in humans, while also examining “tolerability” and if the treatment sparks an immune response in patients. At the beginning it will involve patients who previously had tumors, but were removed, and after that, they will use patients who have solid tumors that cannot be removed, and see how the vaccine performs.
The vaccines will be specified to each patient’s cancer. The tumor cells are analyzed and then a genetic sequencing is used to identify particular mutations in the cells known as neoepitopes. These mutations can help the immune system distinguish the cancerous cells from the healthy ones. This allows the body itself to fight the disease.
Afterwards, the mutations are transcribed on a single piece of mRNA and then injected into the body in the form of a vaccine, which helps the patient’s immune system to identify the cancerous cells and destroy them.
“This medicine designed to help each patient’s immune system recognize cancer as foreign and attack would be a critical addition to oncologists’ treatment arsenal, potentially helping many more patients respond more effectively to treatment,” explains Howard Burris III, one of the principle investigators for the new vaccine, called mRNA-4157.
However, this was not the first cancer vaccine that has been trialed. Back in 2016, there were reports of a “universal” cancer vaccine, which seems to work in a similar vein to this latest example.
Personalized medicine has become a fast growing field.
It aims to develop drugs tailored precisely to the each individual patient. The main side effect of this medicine is the cost. The nature of personalized medicine means that it cannot be mass produced, and therefore it’s very expensive.
It seems, however, that this is likely the direction that many avenues of treatment will take. We’ll just have to wait and see what develops over the next years, to determine how successful this latest trial will be.