June 21, 2024

What are cancer vaccines?

Cancer vaccines are a form of immunotherapy. Unlike vaccines that protect against an infection, such as the Covid-19 jab, cancer vaccines treat people who already have the disease. They are designed to help the patient’s immune system recognize and then kill cancer cells – and prevent them from coming back.

How are cancer vaccines made?

The pricks are custom built for each person, usually within a few weeks. To do this, a sample of a patient’s tumor is removed during surgery, followed by DNA sequencing and in some cases the use of artificial intelligence. The result is a personalized anti-cancer jab specific to that patient’s tumor.

How do they help fight cancer?

The cancer vaccines work by sending a command or blueprint to the patient’s cells to produce an antigen or protein that can distinguish cancer cells from normal cells. The jabs stimulate the immune system to act. The immune system makes antibodies that can recognize and attack the harmless versions of the disease. Once the patient’s body has made these antibodies, it can recognize the disease if it returns.

What type of cancer can they treat?

Scientists are studying many different types of cancer vaccines and how they might work in different types of cancer. More research is needed to get a complete picture of how well the vaccines work and which cancers they can treat. Experts believe it can be effective in a range of cancers, including but not limited to colorectal, lung, bladder, pancreas and kidney.

Doctors also began to test the world’s first personalized mRNA cancer vaccine for melanoma. Experts have hailed its “game-changing” potential to permanently cure skin cancer. A phase 2 trial found that the vaccines dramatically reduced the risk of the cancer returning in melanoma patients.

How can people access cancer vaccines?

Research is still at an early stage, so the jabs are mainly available as part of clinical trials. The NHS is launching a scheme that will benefit thousands of patients England access to cancer vaccine trials.

What is the Cancer Vaccine Launch Pad?

The NHS scheme in England is the first of its kind worldwide. It aims to recruit thousands of cancer patients, with a matching service that puts them into clinical trials of the samples that can help them.

When will it starts recruitment?

It already has. The first NHS patient to join the Cancer Vaccine Launch Pad is Elliot Pfebve, a 55-year-old lecturer who had no symptoms and was diagnosed with colorectal cancer after a routine health check.

How did doctors create this personal vaccine?

First, Pfebve had surgery to remove his tumor, followed by chemotherapy. His personal vaccine was created by analyzing his tumor to identify mutations specific to his own cancer. He then got his shot through an infusion at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, one of several sites taking part in a BioNTech colorectal cancer vaccine trial. It was designed using the same mRNA technology used to create the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine.

How is the patient?

The lead investigator for the trial in Birmingham, Dr Victoria Kunene, said it was too early to say whether the patient had fully recovered, but said she was “extremely hopeful”. “Based on the limited data we currently have of the in-body response to the vaccine, this could be a significant and positive development for patients, but more data is still needed and we continue to select suitable patients for the trial. recruit to establish it further,” she said.

How can I enroll?

The NHS has already signed up dozens of patients to its Cancer Vaccine Launch Block and will now accelerate recruitment, with thousands being offered access to cancer vaccine trials each year. Cancer patients can talk to their GP about whether they might be eligible to join the trials.

How significant is the arrival of cancer vaccines?

Vaccines have revolutionized medicine and protected millions of people from measles and mumps, polio and coronavirus. They also eradicated smallpox, one of the deadliest diseases in human history. Now experts believe they can form part of the toolbox needed to fight cancer forever. They will not soon replace surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy, but could play a key role in immunotherapy, the fourth weapon against cancer.

There are many challenges, and making custom stitches for individual patients takes time, but the hope is that the process can speed up in the future. Doctors and scientists have been working on cancer vaccines for decades, but they have now reached a point where they are seeing real benefits for patients.

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