This is how Moderna’s long-awaited mRNA cancer vaccine works

The next decade could be available a cancer vaccine if the forecasts of the pharmaceutical are met Modernwhich has developed a vaccine for messenger RNA (mRNA) type such as that of COVID-19 to combat this disease that is obtaining positive results in the trials that are being carried out in the United States and the United Kingdom, as announced by the company itself.

In this sense, Paul Burton, the company’s medical director, recently made a statement in this regard to the British newspaper The Guardian in which he states that the new drug “will be very effective, and will save many hundreds of thousands, if not millions of lives.” […] I think we can offer personalized vaccines against multiple types of tumors”.

How Moderna’s Cancer Vaccine Works

mRNA vaccines work by instructing cells to be able to produce a protein that triggers an immune response against a particular pathogen, such as the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. In this case, the drug would generate an alert to warn the immune system of the presence of a tumor and for the patient’s defenses to mobilize to attack and destroy it, without harming healthy cells.

The mRNA “can be applied to all kinds of conditions: cancer, infectious diseases, cardiovascular diseases, autoimmune diseases, rare diseases…”

To achieve this goal, fragments of proteins that are found on the surface of cancer cells, but not in healthy cells, and are more likely to trigger an immune response, are identified, and then fragments of mRNA are created that will tell the body how elaborate them.

First of all, it would be necessary to carry out a tumor biopsy of the patient whose genetic material would be sequenced in a laboratory to identify mutations that do not appear in healthy cells. A machine learning algorithm would then determine which of these mutations are responsible for the development of cancer. This system also progressively learns which parts of the defective proteins that these mutations code for are most likely to trigger an immune response in order to make mRNAs for the most likely successful antigens, which would form part of a personalized vaccine.

Personalized vaccines to combat different diseases

In 2030, Moderna’s mRNA-based vaccines will also be available to combat other types of pathologies, as Paul Burton has stated: “What we have learned in recent months is that if you ever thought mRNA was only for infectious diseases, or just for COVID, the evidence now is that that is not the case at all. It can be applied to all kinds of conditions: cancer, infectious diseases, cardiovascular diseases, autoimmune diseases, rare diseases. We have studies in all these areas and they have all shown tremendous promise,” concludes Moderna’s medical director.

Moderna, in fact, is carrying out clinical trials with patients to test its mRNA vaccines in the treatment of different medical problems, from HIV to melanomaan aggressive skin cancer in which encouraging results have been obtained, since, as reported by Merck and Moderna in December last year, patients with advanced melanoma who, together with an immunotherapy drug, had received a messenger RNA vaccine ( mRNA) that carried instructions to tell cells to make a particular protein (34 tumor neoantigens per patient), were 44% less likely to die or have a cancer recurrence.

At the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) held this April, the researchers offered new details, such as that the cancer had not returned in 84 of the 107 patients who received the vaccine ( 79%) at 18 months, compared to only 31 of 50 (62%) who were treated with the drug alone. “These data give a very, very encouraging sign,” said trial principal investigator Jeffrey Weber of the NYU Langone Perlmutter Cancer Center.


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