A cancer vaccine being trialled by Britain’s National Health Service could herald the “dawn of a new era” of treatments

A cancer vaccine being trialled by Britain’s National Health Service could herald the “dawn of a new era” of treatments

A new mRNA cancer vaccine being trialled in the UK could herald the “dawn of a new era” in treatments for the disease, a scientist has suggested.

As emerging vaccine technology evolves due to the coronavirus pandemic, British patients are among a global group recruited to trial the safety and effectiveness of a vaccine that experts hope will lead to a new generation of “off-the-shelf” cancer treatments.

The vaccine – called mRNA-4359 and produced by Moderna – targets people with advanced melanoma, lung cancer and other solid tumor cancers.

While in some cases, vaccines are created specifically for each individual patient in laboratories using their genetic information, the vaccine the British patients are trialling is among those that more broadly target specific types of cancer, and which can be produced more quickly and easily.

A Surrey man with malignant melanoma skin cancer that does not respond to treatment was the first person in the UK to receive the vaccine at Hammersmith Hospital in late October as part of a trial arm run by Imperial College London and the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

“I had different immunotherapy, I had radiotherapy, and the only thing I didn’t have was chemotherapy. So, the options were either do nothing and wait, or Get involved and do something.”

“I’m so grateful to the hospitals and individuals who are running these trials. We have to somehow change the fact that one in two people will get cancer at some point, and we have to make the odds better.

During the trial, the vaccine will be tested alone and in combination with the existing drug pembrolizumab, an approved immunotherapy, also known as Keytruda.

Scientists say 20 years of research into cancer vaccines is finally bearing fruit

(Palestinian Authority)

Between 40 and 50 patients are being recruited worldwide for the trial, known as Mobilize, including London, Spain, the US and Australia, although it could be expanded. Once inside the body, mRNA (genetic material) “teaches” the immune system how cancer cells differ from healthy cells and mobilizes them for destruction.

Dr. Kyle Hollin, head of development, therapeutics and oncology at Moderna, said researchers hope the vaccine can treat a range of cancers beyond those in the current trial.

“We think it could be effective in head and neck cancer, we think it could be effective in bladder cancer, we think it could be effective in kidney cancer,” he said. “But we started with the two that we think have the highest potential to be effective, which are melanoma and lung cancer.”

Dr. Hollin noted that two decades of work on cancer vaccines is finally beginning to pay off, as “the field has finally reached a point where we are starting to see a real benefit for patients.”

“This is something we saw with our first vaccine, where we were able to reduce the risk of recurrence by more than half in patients with high-risk melanoma,” he said. “So we’re really excited about some of the early results and hope that this will lead to the dawn of a new era of cancer treatments.”

Dr David Benato, of the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said that while immunotherapies remove the “invisibility cloak that makes cancer hide within the body”, the appeal of cancer vaccines “is that you can make them much more specific – you can Vaccines essentially give “written instructions to the immune system” such as “identifying cancer cells, which is more precise.”

Progress in the UK’s cancer survival rate is now slower than it was 50 years ago, a recent study suggests

(Palestinian Authority)

The advantage of mRNA technology is that it “makes your body produce those instructions,” which then “awakens the immune system,” Dr. Bennato said.

While personalized vaccines can also be very effective, they can take weeks to make and rely on a large tumor sample. He added that there is not enough data at the moment to determine whether personalized vaccines are actually better than broader cancer vaccines such as the Moderna vaccine.

Dr. Bennato said the Moderna vaccine looks at specific traits across a number of tumors — “at what is the most common hit that you can target in cancer.” “So this has incredible advantages in terms of the turnaround time, and the fact that you can do doses of vaccines ahead of time even before you meet the patient. That’s really the advantage.”

The Mobilize trial is still recruiting patients, and Moderna expects to report results sometime next year.

Dr. Hollin said the success of mRNA technology in COVID-19 vaccines has given impetus to accelerating the development of cancer vaccines using mRNA.

“We started creating our cancer vaccine before the COVID pandemic happened and used some of that technology that we were making for our cancer vaccine for the COVID vaccine,” he said.

“What is really remarkable is that we have now treated more than a billion patients with a Covid vaccine, and this same technology is now being studied again in cancer patients. Because we have treated more than a billion patients, we know a lot about the safety and tolerability of the treatment around the world.

New vaccines could “revolutionize” the way Britain treats cancer, the Health Secretary has said

(PA/Alamy)

“So we will likely have more safety-related information about our cancer vaccine than any other vaccine ever created to treat cancer, and that makes us feel confident that we are on the right track.”

He added that the side effects of Moderna’s cancer vaccines appear to be less than expected with other immunotherapies.

“We experienced very mild side effects consistent with a Covid or flu vaccine. There is some pain in the arm, some fatigue, and some mild fever, which lasts a few days. “When you compare this to other immunotherapies, it’s actually very mild,” Dr. Hollin said.

British Health Secretary Victoria Atkins said: “This vaccine has the potential to save more lives while revolutionizing the way we treat this terrible disease with treatments that are more effective and less toxic to the system.”

However, experts are unsure why some patients respond well to vaccines and others have a poor response or no response at all.

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