Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines that were initially developed to combat COVID-19 may have multiple applications in the prevention of a wide variety of pathologies, from HIV to cardiovascular diseases or cancer. In fact, the Moderna pharmaceutical company that developed the Spikevax vaccine for coronavirus infection recently presented positive results for its new cancer vaccine, which could be available in 2030.
Now, the results of the first clinical trial in which they have been tested personalized mRNA vaccines against him pancreatic cancer the result of research by a team of scientists from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) who had already tested mRNA vaccine technology with the aim of using it as a cancer treatment.
These researchers have worked in collaboration with colleagues from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the German company BioNTech to develop a personalized mRNA vaccine that has obtained promising results against an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer in a phase 1 clinical trial in which 16 volunteers have participated.
“Personalized mRNA vaccines combined with immunomodulation are clear candidates to dominate treatments in oncology, especially applied around surgery with curative intent”
The study has been published in Nature and demonstrates that individualized mRNA vaccines have the ability to activate neoantigen-specific immune T cells of the pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. Amanda Huff and Neeha Zaidi of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have published an article on News & Views in the same issue of the journal that describes the work.
Powerful immune response against pancreatic cancer
Pancreatic cancer is one of the tumors that causes more deaths because it usually does not manifest symptoms until the disease is very advanced and its treatment is more difficult. Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA) is a particularly lethal type of pancreatic cancer because around 88% of those affected die from it, with very few therapeutic options available and with little success.
Some immunotherapeutic drugs, such as immune checkpoint inhibitors, have been shown to be effective in treating various types of cancer, but not for ADP. However, the researchers say that personalized vaccines could work. Immunotherapy works by inducing the immune system to attack tumors through the recognition of proteins (neoantigens) on the surface of cancer cells, and these scientists have discovered that an individualized mRNA vaccine can promote the attack of neoantigen-specific T cells. on the surface of the tumor.
Testing with this experimental vaccine has been carried out on 16 volunteers who first had their tumors surgically removed. The tumors were then used to make 16 unique vaccines that were administered to patients. All of them also received chemotherapy and atezolizumab, a generic form of immunotherapy. A large T-cell response was observed in half of the patients, and after 18 months none of them showed signs of cancer progression.
Speaking to SMC Spain, Ignacio MeleroProfessor of Immunology at the University of Navarra, CIMA researcher and co-director of the Department of Immunology and Immunotherapy at the Clínica Universidad de Navarra, affirms that “Personalized mRNA vaccines combined with immunomodulation are clear candidates to dominate treatments in oncology, especially applied around surgery with curative intent.
Manel Juan, Head of the Immunology Service at Hospital Clínic, also has a positive opinion about the results of the work: “It demonstrates something that has already been suggested many times before (with less solid data), such as personalized vaccination with mRNA of tumor antigens is effective in inducing a response and that it can, at a minimum, increase survival periods. This work confirms that it can generate responses with clearly very reduced adverse effects against one of the tumors with the highest mortality, pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma,” he explained in statements to the same medium.