One of the most fatal diseases is pancreatic cancer. In fact, nine out of ten patients do not survive the disease beyond 5 years. With no cure found, this sad reality remained unchanged for the last six decades. Today, however, a messenger mRNA vaccine has opened a hopeful path to treatment.
mRNA vaccine may promote cure of pancreatic cancer.
A clinical trial in stage one disease, showed that, the vaccine, added to the usual treatments, may help with the cure.
Researchers in the United States conducted the trial in 16 patients with this type of cancer. They administered the messenger mRNA vaccine, called BNT122, after removing the tumor by surgery.
After an observation period of 18 months, in half of the patients, the tumor did not reappear. This is excellent news, considering that in cases of pancreatic cancer, until now, the tumor usually reappears a few months after the operation.
The phase 1 trial was published in the journal Nature, where the scientists detailed that the results are achieved by using the vaccine together with other treatments. These are the treatments usually performed, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and surgery.
Most cancers develop elevated levels of neoantigens, which are proteins that arise in tumors when DNA is mutated. These are the proteins that were analyzed in a laboratory in Germany to develop personalized vaccines for each patient.
In the Nature article, it is detailed that pancreatic cancer is lethal in 88 % of patients. However, the tumors contain T-cell neoantigens that are suitable for developing vaccines.
Each of the 16 vaccines administered was prepared with each patient’s personal neoantigens. Fifty percent of the patients had a positive T-cell response, achieving enhanced immunity.
A hope and at the same time a challenge is born.
Messenger RNA vaccines provided an excellent response to the covid-19 pandemic. However, they were initially conceived for the treatment of several types of cancer.
Despite the success achieved in half of the patients, scientists remain calm. More trials such as the one described are needed to develop specific treatments for each individual patient. Early indications, however, prove that messenger RNA vaccines can be a success in the medium term.
The doubts that arise in the scientific community are several. For example, the availability of personalized vaccines in the shortest possible time. Also the costs of vaccination when it is established. Another problem is the complexity of the whole process, since it is not currently possible to develop it outside specialized and highly complex centers.
Currently, worldwide, only two or three laboratories are capable of developing this type of vaccine. Nevertheless, the progress is promising.