top of page

mRNA vaccines could be the key to eradicate pancreatic cancer

[Apr. 18, 2023: JD Shavit, The Brighter Side of News]


The key to these vaccines appears to be proteins in the pancreatic tumors, called neoantigens, which alert the immune system to keep the cancer at bay. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)


Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer, with a five-year survival rate of just 10%. Despite decades of research, treatments for pancreatic cancer have remained largely ineffective, and the disease continues to claim the lives of tens of thousands of people each year.


But there may be hope on the horizon. Researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) are exploring the potential of mRNA vaccines as a new treatment option for pancreatic cancer.


mRNA vaccines have gained widespread attention in recent months due to their role in the fight against COVID-19. These vaccines work by using a small piece of genetic material called messenger RNA (mRNA) to teach the body's immune system to recognize and fight the virus.


 
 

But the potential of mRNA vaccines extends far beyond COVID-19. In recent years, researchers have been exploring the use of mRNA vaccines for a variety of diseases, including cancer.


mRNA vaccines offer several advantages over traditional cancer therapies. Unlike chemotherapy and radiation, which can have toxic side effects and damage healthy cells, mRNA vaccines are designed to target cancer cells specifically, leaving healthy cells unharmed.


Additionally, mRNA vaccines offer the potential for long-lasting immunity. Because they train the immune system to recognize and fight cancer cells, patients who receive mRNA vaccines may be less likely to experience a recurrence of their cancer.


 

Related News

 

The potential of mRNA vaccines for cancer treatment has been the subject of extensive research in recent years. In 2018, for example, a team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania published a study in the journal Nature showing that an mRNA vaccine could successfully treat melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer.


Now, researchers at MSK are exploring the potential of mRNA vaccines for pancreatic cancer. Led by Dr. Steven D. Leach, MSK's Physician-in-Chief, and Dr. Vinod Balachandran, a surgical oncologist and immunologist, the team is conducting a clinical trial to evaluate the safety and efficacy of an mRNA vaccine in patients with pancreatic cancer.


 
 

The vaccine, known as BI-1206, works by targeting a protein called CD32b, which is overexpressed in pancreatic cancer cells. By teaching the immune system to recognize and attack cells that express CD32b, the vaccine aims to destroy pancreatic cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed.


Vinod Balachandran says mRNA vaccines could stimulate the immune system to recognize and attack pancreatic cancer cells. (CREDIT: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center)


The key to these vaccines appears to be proteins in the pancreatic tumors, called neoantigens, which alert the immune system to keep the cancer at bay. The clinical trial is currently in the early stages, with researchers enrolling patients and evaluating the safety of the vaccine. If the vaccine proves to be safe and well-tolerated, the trial will move on to evaluate the vaccine's efficacy in treating pancreatic cancer.


In addition to the clinical trial, MSK researchers are also conducting laboratory studies to better understand the mechanisms behind the vaccine's effectiveness. One such study, published in the journal Cancer Discovery in 2020, showed that the vaccine was able to activate T cells, a type of immune cell that plays a critical role in fighting cancer.


 
 

The study also showed that the vaccine was effective in slowing the growth of pancreatic tumors in mice. While the results of animal studies cannot be directly extrapolated to humans, they provide important insights into the potential of the vaccine as a cancer treatment.


The use of mRNA vaccines for cancer treatment is still in the early stages of development, and there are several challenges that must be overcome before they can become a standard treatment option. One of the main challenges is the cost of developing and producing the vaccines.


mRNA vaccines are complex to manufacture and require specialized facilities, which can be expensive to build and operate. Additionally, because mRNA vaccines are a new type of treatment, there is a lack of established infrastructure for clinical trials and regulatory approval.


Despite these challenges, the potential of mRNA vaccines for cancer treatment is generating excitement within the scientific community. With further research and development, mRNA vaccines could represent a major breakthrough in the fight against cancer.


Pancreatic cancer is a particularly challenging form of cancer to treat. It is often diagnosed at an advanced stage when it has already spread to other parts of the body, making it difficult to remove surgically or target with radiation therapy.


 
 

Chemotherapy, the most common form of treatment for pancreatic cancer, can help to slow the growth of the cancer and improve quality of life, but it is rarely curative. The five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer remains stubbornly low, despite decades of research and clinical trials.


The potential of mRNA vaccines to target cancer cells specifically offers a promising new avenue for treatment. By training the immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells, mRNA vaccines could provide a more effective and less toxic alternative to chemotherapy and radiation.


The clinical trial at MSK is one of several underway to evaluate the safety and efficacy of mRNA vaccines for cancer treatment. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, for example, are conducting a clinical trial to evaluate an mRNA vaccine for ovarian cancer.


The vaccine, known as MEDI9197, works by activating the immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. The trial is currently in the early stages, with researchers enrolling patients to evaluate the safety of the vaccine.


Another promising area of research is the use of mRNA vaccines in combination with other cancer treatments. In a study published in the journal Nature in 2017, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania showed that an mRNA vaccine could enhance the effectiveness of checkpoint inhibitor therapy, a type of immunotherapy that helps the immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells.


 
 

The combination therapy was effective in treating several different types of cancer, including melanoma and lung cancer. These results suggest that mRNA vaccines could play an important role in combination therapies for cancer treatment.


Despite the potential of mRNA vaccines, there are still several challenges that must be overcome before they can become a standard treatment option for cancer. One of the main challenges is the complexity of manufacturing and producing the vaccines.


Unlike traditional vaccines, which use weakened or inactivated forms of a virus to stimulate an immune response, mRNA vaccines use a small piece of genetic material to teach the immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. This genetic material must be produced in a laboratory and packaged in a specialized lipid nanoparticle, which can be expensive and time-consuming.


In addition to the challenges of manufacturing and producing mRNA vaccines, there are also challenges in delivering the vaccines to cancer cells. Because cancer cells are often surrounded by a dense network of blood vessels, it can be difficult to deliver the vaccines to the tumor site.


To overcome this challenge, researchers are exploring different delivery methods, such as using nanoparticles or other targeted delivery systems to deliver the vaccines directly to the cancer cells.


 
 

Despite these challenges, the potential of mRNA vaccines for cancer treatment is generating excitement within the scientific community. With further research and development, mRNA vaccines could represent a major breakthrough in the fight against cancer.


The clinical trial at MSK is one of several underway to evaluate the safety and efficacy of mRNA vaccines for cancer treatment. If the vaccine proves to be safe and effective in treating pancreatic cancer, it could represent a major advance in the treatment of this deadly disease.


But even if the vaccine proves to be effective, it will likely be several years before it is widely available as a treatment option for pancreatic cancer. The vaccine will need to undergo further clinical trials and regulatory approval, and it will need to be manufactured and distributed at scale.


In the meantime, researchers at MSK and other institutions are continuing to explore the potential of mRNA vaccines for cancer treatment. With each new study, we are getting closer to unlocking the full potential of this promising new technology.





For more science and technology stories check out our New Discoveries section at The Brighter Side of News.


 

Note: Materials provided above by The Brighter Side of News. Content may be edited for style and length.


 
 

Like these kind of feel good stories? Get the Brighter Side of News' newsletter.


 

Comments


Most Recent Stories

bottom of page