Together with the German pharmaceutical company BioNTech, the UK has ambitious plans to speed up research into mRNA cancer vaccines.
Scientists now want to undertake more trials in cancer patients after the Covid vaccines, which use the same messenger-ribonucleic-acid technology, were successful.
And by 2030, they intend to offer this type of personalised care to around 10,000 patients.
The first country to join such a collaboration is Great Britain.
The UK is in a perfect position, according to BioNTech, because of its strong infrastructure and history in medical research, as well as multiple worldwide cancer vaccine studies that are now underway.
The vaccination will potentially stop some of the individuals in the trials from developing cancer again even though they have already had treatment for it.
Others will have cancers that have spread and are advanced, which the vaccination might help contain and reduce.
The mRNA treatment is customised for each patient and gives the immune system pieces of the unique cancer’s genetic code so it can target the tumour solely, in contrast to chemotherapy, which targets a variety of cells in addition to the cancer.
As a result, production costs go up. According to BioNTech, it will be inexpensive for healthcare systems. To ascertain whether the expense can be justified for the NHS, however, considerably more research is required. The specifics of the collaboration between the government and BioNTech have not been made public due to commercial sensitivity.
According to Prof. Ozlem Tureci, co-founder of BioNTech, “The UK is a terrific partner for this endeavour.
“We have observed that the regulatory authority is remarkable in the Covid-19 epidemic with the quick licencing of vaccines in the UK.
“There are also capabilities for genetic analysis. One of the top countries in that regard is the UK.
The idea is to teach the immune system to attack by encoding specific molecular characteristics from each patient’s tumour into a customised mRNA vaccine.
According to her, it was comparable to posting a reward or wanted poster to warn the body to be vigilant and engage in combat.
Additionally, patients may require multiple doses to keep the immune system on high alert because cancer is a complex disease.
Steve Barclay, the secretary of health and social services, said: “Once cancer has been identified, we must make sure the greatest treatments—including those for breast, lung, and pancreatic cancer—are accessible as quickly as possible.
“We both share a passion to advancing science, and BioNTech helped to pioneer the development of a Covid-19 vaccine.
“This partnership will mean that, starting in September, our patients will be among the first to participate in trials and tests to provide targeted, individualised, and precision treatments using transformative new therapies to both treat the existing cancer and help stop it from returning,” the statement reads.
Cancer Research UK applauded the announcement, but noted that because of delays in diagnosis and treatment, staff members are becoming increasingly overworked and may not have the time necessary to set up clinical studies. If this trend persisted, the development of new medicines would be slowed.
“mRNA vaccines are one of the most intriguing research advances to come out of the pandemic, and there are clear indications that they could become effective cancer therapy alternatives,” said CRUK spokesman Dr. Iain Foulkes.
More research will be needed to get there.
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