‘It’s an adaptation of the Covid jab’: personalized cancer vaccines ‘will save lives in five years’, US company Moderna claims
- The Moderna mRNA Covid jab had compressed many years of work
- Others against heart disease and autoimmune diseases are also at your fingertips
Personalized cancer vaccines will be available within five years, predicts the head of a company that produced a successful Covid jab.
Dr. Paul Burton, chief medical officer of the US company Moderna, said the production of their mRNA Covid jab had compressed many years of work – hugely accelerating development in the area.
In addition to tailored cancer vaccines, he said others to protect against or treat “all types of disease,” including heart disease and autoimmune diseases, are now within reach.
Speaking to The Guardian, Dr Burton said Moderna was developing cancer vaccines to fight different types of tumours: ‘We will have that vaccine and it will be very effective and it will save many hundreds of thousands if not millions of lives.’
He added: “I think we will be able to offer personalized cancer vaccines against multiple different tumor types.”
Personalized cancer vaccines will be available within five years, predicts the head of a company that produced a successful Covid jab
While cancer vaccines are usually thought of as a preventative measure—usually by preventing someone from getting an infection—they are now being developed primarily as a form of treatment.
The idea is to first take a sample of a patient’s tumor and genetically analyze it to determine which mutations are responsible for its growth.
Then a tailored molecule of mRNA is produced – a genetic blueprint that instructs cells to make proteins. This tells cells to make an ‘antigen’ related to that cancer – a kind of ‘flag’ that gives away a cancer cell.
Large numbers of these molecules are then injected into the patient, causing cells to make the ‘flags’. After the patient’s cells make them, the theory goes, their immune system is able to recognize them—and the cancer cells they represent—as dangerous invaders. As a result, these cells are the target of destruction, while healthy cells remain unharmed.
It’s an adaptation of the same process used to produce mRNA vaccines against Covid – only instead of teaching the immune system to recognize the virus as an alien invader, these vaccines would teach recipients to recognize their specific cancer as the outsider .
Dr. Burton said they were beginning to learn that it was “absolutely not the case” that mRNA technology could only be applied to fight Covid.
“It can be applied to all kinds of disease areas,” he said, adding that Moderna was exploring mRNA to fight “cancer, infectious diseases, cardiovascular diseases, autoimmune diseases, rare diseases.”
A sign marks the headquarters of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine maker Moderna in Cambridge, Massachusetts
‘We have studies in all those areas and they’ve all shown tremendous promise,’ said Dr Burton.
Human trials of such cancer vaccines are still a long way off – although rival BioNTech, which created the blueprint for Pfizer’s Covid jab, announced last year it had signed an agreement with the NHS to provide personalized mRNA cancer treatments to 10,000 patients by 2030 . .
If personalized cancer vaccines become available, they will also likely be expensive. The closest comparative technology currently on the market is a type of treatment called CAR-T therapy, for certain types of leukemia and lymphoma.
CAR-T therapies typically cost six figures per patient.