- The UK is embarking on an ambitious plan to accelerate research into mRNA cancer vaccines.
- Following the success of Covid vaccines using the same messenger-ribonucleic-acid technology.
- Scientists now want to conduct more trials in cancer patients.
They are hoping to provide this personalized type of treatment to about 10,000 patients by 2030. Britain is the first nation to sign up to such a partnership.
Great Track Record
BioNTech has several international cancer vaccine trials in progress but says the UK is ideally placed as it has a great track record and infrastructure for medical research. Some of the patients in the trials will have cancer that has already been treated and the vaccine will hopefully prevent it returning.
Unlike chemotherapy, which attacks lots of different cells as well as the cancer, the mRNA treatment is tailor-made for the individual and presents the immune system with bits of genetic code from the specific cancer so it can attack only the tumor. This makes it more expensive to produce.
A Great Partner
BioNTech co-founder Prof Ozlem Tureci said: “The UK is a great partner for this endeavor. We have seen in the Covid-19 pandemic with the fast approval of vaccines in the UK that the regulatory authority is exceptional.” The concept here is to use specific molecular features in individual cancers of patients to encode them into the mRNA vaccines and to train the immune system to attack. It was like putting up a bounty or wanted poster, she said, alerting the body to be on the lookout and fight.
Cancer Research UK welcomed the news, but said delays in diagnosis and treatment mean staff are increasingly overstretched and may be unable to find the time needed to set up clinical trials – if this continued it would mean slower progress towards new treatments.
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