You would know Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines played a crucial role in helping us overcome the pandemic blues. Although mRNA vaccines were originally aimed against cancer, their effectiveness against infectious diseases brought the vaccines to the headlines during the pandemic.
However, recent research has shown that the significance of the vaccine is not limited to COVID only. It suggests that some specially curated mRNA shots can help in the prevention of melanoma (a dreaded skin cancer) relapse.
Excerpts from the Study
The study was published on Sunday at a research conference. It showed that after two years of receiving a personalized mRNA vaccine made by Moderna and Merck, patients were 44% more likely to be alive, and reduced the chances of new tumors. A longer study is planned to start later this year. If the results stay constant, it would be a crucial transformation in cancer vaccines that have been tested for decades.
Dr. Ryan Sullivan (Oncologist at Mass General Cancer Center) said “It’s probably the first real data that suggests that this personalized approach to vaccination may be worth exploring further.”
How does this Vaccine work?
The mRNA vaccines are developed to reduce cancer recurrences. Scientists first remove a tumor or a separate biopsy surgically and send blood and tissue samples for genetic sequencing. They look for proteins that are new to cancer i.e. not present in an ideal healthy tissue. Afterward, an mRNA vaccine is developed to target 34 of these distinctive proteins.
The immunity system identifies the proteins and kills the cells that make these proteins without harming the healthy tissues. The patients’ own genetics and the evolution of their tumor cells play an important role, resulting in many possible neoantigens. Thus, the vaccines have to be designed exclusively for each person. According to the research, each vaccine takes up to 8 weeks to manufacture, based on tumor cells removed during the surgery.