mRNA Vaccines for Pancreatic cancer advancement
Pancreatic cancer is a deadly disease with a poor prognosis - in the order of 10% at 5 years, which goes up to 20% when the cancer can be removed.
Considering this low recovering rate, researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) are conducting a clinical trial to test the use of the novel mRNA vaccines to treat pancreatic cancer.
mRNA vaccines are a type of immunotherapy that can train the body's immune system to fight cancer. Find our more on mRNA vaccines in our review on the topic.
To optimize the treatment efficiency, the MSK trial is using mRNA vaccines that are customized to each patient's tumor. The vaccines contain instructions for the body to produce proteins that are found on the surface of pancreatic cancer cells. These proteins are known as tumor-associated antigens (TAAs).
When the body's immune system sees the TAAs, it produces T cells that attack and destroy the pancreatic cancer cells. The MSK trial is designed to see if the mRNA vaccines can help the body's immune system fight pancreatic cancer more effectively.
How are custom mRNA vaccines made ?
After surgical removal of a pancreatic tumor, the patient's tumor is genetically sequenced to identify the best neoantigen proteins that appear foreign to the immune system.
Creating personalized vaccines for cancer treatment is a more intricate process compared to producing preventive vaccines for infectious diseases, as each personalized vaccine is tailored to an individual's specific tumor, rather than being standardized and mass-produced in large quantities. A personalized mRNA cancer vaccine is then manufactured, specific to these proteins in the individual's tumor. This process involves complex cancer surgery to extract the tumor, which is then shipped to BioNTech in Germany for sequencing and vaccine production before being sent back to New York for treatment.
The trial is still in its early stages, but the initial results are promising.
In a phase 1 trial, the mRNA vaccines were safe and caused an effective and lasting immune response in 8 of 16 patients. These patients also showed delayed recurrence of their pancreatic cancers, suggesting that the T cells activated by the vaccines may be having the desired effect — keeping pancreatic cancers in check.
Trial Phase 2
The MSK trial is now entering a phase 2 trial, which will enroll more patients to further assess the safety and efficacy of the mRNA vaccines. The researchers are hopeful that the vaccines could offer a new and effective way to fight this deadly disease.
Here are some additional details about the MSK trial:
- The trial is open to patients wpancreatic cancer who have undergone surgery to remove their tumors.
- Patients are randomly assigned to receive a regular treatment (surgery followed by chemotherapy) or the new innovative treatment ( surgery, mRNA vaccine and chemoterapy)
- The trial is expected to enroll up to 260 patients.
- The primary outcome of the trial is the safety of the mRNA vaccine. Secondary outcomes include the efficacy of the vaccine and the duration of the immune response.
The MSK trial is one of several clinical trials that are currently underway to test the use of mRNA vaccines for pancreatic cancer. The results of these trials will help to determine whether mRNA vaccines can be a viable treatment for this deadly disease.
To learn more about the MSK trial or to find other clinical trials that are testing mRNA vaccines for pancreatic cancer, please visit their website: https://www.mskcc.org/