Personalized mRNA cancer vaccines: when might they be available?

Personalized mRNA cancer vaccines: when might they be available?

  • BioNTech has announced a partnership with the UK government to conduct trials of personalized mRNA cancer immunotherapies.
  • The trials aim to treat patients with advanced cancer and prevent the cancer from coming back in others.
  • Experts estimate that it could be several years before cancer vaccines become widely available.

As of January 10, 2022, over 13 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, including hundreds of millions of mRNA vaccines by companies like Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.

Following the boom in mRNA vaccine research for COVID-19, researchers are now looking to apply their experience to cancer vaccines.

Recently, BioNTech announced a strategic partnership with the Government of UK provide up to 10,000 patients with personalized mRNA cancer immunotherapies by 2030.

“Our goal is to accelerate the development of immunotherapies and vaccines using technologies that we have been researching for more than 20 years,” said Professor Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech, in a press release.

“The collaboration will cover various types of cancer and infectious diseases collectively affecting hundreds of millions of people around the world. If successful, this collaboration has the potential to improve patient outcomes and provide early access to our suite of cancer immunotherapies as well as innovative infectious disease vaccines – in the UK and around the world,” he added.

“BioNTech’s unique partnership with the UK government and its ambitious plan to deliver 10,000 doses of personalized mRNA cancer vaccines to UK patients by 2030 has the potential to dramatically accelerate development,” said Dr Marjorie Zettler. , Executive Director of Clinical Sciences at Regor Therapeutics. The group, not involved in the vaccine trial, said Medical News Today.

“While the details of the plan are not publicly available, the efficiency of a national collaborative agreement such as this could accelerate the time to approval and commercial availability,” she explained.

mRNA vaccines

mRNA stands for “messenger RNA” and works by translating “messages” from DNA to make proteins. Unlike chemotherapy, which destroys many cell types alongside cancer cells, immunotherapy treatments using mRNA can be designed to destroy cancer cells alone.

mRNA vaccines work by introducing stable, lab-made forms of mRNA into the body – similar to those found on specific antigens. The body then learns to recognize the associated antigens and destroy them.

This means that when infected with the original antigens, the body’s immune system is better prepared to fight it.

Although mRNA vaccines can be made on a generic basis – like COVID-19 vaccines – they can also be personalized for individual needs.

After analyzing tumors from individual patients, researchers can design vaccines to address patient-specific neoantigens. This means that mRNA vaccines have the potential to treat several conditions, including different types of cancer.

“The promise of these mRNA vaccines is that they are tailor-made, personalized to each patient’s tumor. This allows a wider range of antigens to be targeted, making it less likely that cancer cells can mutate in a way that will allow escape,” said Dr Zettler.

The new BioNTech partnership aims to prevent cancer from returning in previously treated patients and to treat patients with advanced cancers that have already spread.

How promising are they?

Dr. Don J. Diamond, a professor in the Department of Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation at City of Hope, not involved in the trial, said DTM that several recent trials have shown promise for cancer vaccines.

In particular, he discussed recent trial results for Moderna’s personalized mRNA-4157 vaccine for cancers of viral origin such as human papillomavirus (HPV), known to be implicated in cancers of the head, neck and neck. and the cervix.

In the trial, the researchers combined the cancer vaccine with the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab. They found that patients who had a combination of the cancer vaccine and pembrolizumab had a 44% lower risk of death than those who took pembrolizumab alone.

He noted that these findings form the basis of the UK’s new agreement with BioNTech to conduct similar trials. He noted, however, that non-viral cancers will require further research to understand how they may be affected by mRNA vaccines.

Dr. Santosh Kesari, neuro-oncologist and director of neuro-oncology at Providence Saint John’s Health Center and chairman of the department of translational neuroscience and neurotherapy at Saint John’s Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, California, and regional medical director for research Clinic Institute of Providence Southern California, not involved in the lawsuit, also said DTM:

“An mRNA vaccine has the potential to fight all cancers, but like all vaccines, it needs to be studied thoroughly to ensure its safety and effectiveness. »

“mRNA vaccines could potentially be easier to manufacture, cheaper and more widely distributed – as in [the] cases of COVID vaccines,” he noted.

“However,” he cautioned, “many vaccine approaches are personalized for each patient, so it can increase [the] cost and production logistics. But given our experience in CAR-T technologyit is possible to overcome this with resources.

Clinical use

“Clinical trials reported by [Moderna- Merck and BioNTech-Pfizer] are announcing early results from Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials. A pivotal Phase 3 registration trial has not yet begun,” said Dr. Diamond.

“Therefore, we would expect a minimum of 3-5 years before an organic license application could be filed with regulatory authorities in the United States (FDA) or Europe (EMA) or UK [MHRA],” he noted.

Dr. Zettler agreed that it would take several years before mRNA cancer vaccines became widely available. She noted that while Moderna’s mRNA vaccine, which will enter Phase 3 trials this year, is the most advanced in development, it will likely take a few more years to reach commercial availability.

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