Modern medicine is about to outdo itself yet again, as researchers from Germany claim to be etching closer and closer to developing a vaccine that can train and condition immune systems to fight cancer predicated on the particular type of genetic mutations of a patient’s tumor(s). If such a vaccination is developed it could drastically change medicine’s approach to combating even the most vicious of cancers. Such an innovation may go on to save millions of lives, yet only time will tell if such a powerful resource can realize its full potential or amount to nothing.
In the pursuit of developing “vaccines on demand,” that have the ability to locate and target a patient’s tumor(s), scientists at TRON, a biopharmaceutical research institute, has made it a point to bring about more precision and speed to the treatment method of immunotherapy, which is the training of a patient’s immune system to effectively spot and fight off harmful tumors. It is no doubt that such a massive undertaking has presented various problems and challenges. One problem the team of researchers encountered was being able to produce a working module of a tumor type from the cancer cell mutations which could then be used to implement genetic alterations in relation with each patient. The German researchers attempted to resolve this issue by recognizing the three different kinds of genetic fingerprints for three different kinds of cancers (skin, colon, and breast). What they discovered was that around 20 percent of all mutations in a tumor has the capacity to trigger an immune response.
One other challenge was speeding up the process in an effort to quickly identify the most effective drug combination before the cancer has an opportunity to metastasize. The solution to this second challenge was developing and transporting a particular vaccine tailored to an individual in a suitable amount of time. Once the mutationshave been identified, customized treatment can commence instantaneously. The researchers discovered that by concentrating on ten mutations that assault different points on the tumor, and by utilizing messenger RNA to transport the mutations, they could deliver the personalized cancer treatment efficiently.
As previously mentioned, this research is part of a wider mission of further enhancing cancer immunotherapy by finding ways of effectively enlisting natural immune defenses of the body to spot and terminate harmful cancerous cells before they spread to other parts and vital organs of the body. This latest study has been lauded as a crucial step towards manufacturing a technique that can produce relatively inexpensive and effective cancer vaccinations to order for individual patients who showcase specific combinations of proteins located on their tumor cells that can be spotted and liquidated by the vaccine.
“This is extremely exciting scientifically and conceptually because this could be the future of personalized medicine and we’re already in clinical testing with results expected later this year,” said UgurSahin of the Johannes Gutenburg University in Mainz, Germany who led the study published in the journal Nature.
The next phase is to test this vaccination method on humans. The research team intends to test their discoveries in an international case study of malignant melanoma in addition to other clinical trials.