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Vaccines may be the next big advance in cancer treatment

By Carla K. Johnson | Associated Press

SEATTLE — Vaccines could be the next big advance in cancer treatment.

After decades of limited success, scientists say research has reached a tipping point, with many predicting more vaccines to come within five years. there is

These are not traditional vaccines to prevent disease, but vaccines to shrink tumors and prevent cancer from coming back. Targets of these experimental treatments include breast and lung cancers, with an increase in fatal skin cancer melanoma and pancreatic cancer reported this year.

“Something is working. Now we need to make it work better,” said James Gurry, leader of a center at the National Cancer Institute that develops immunotherapies, including cancer treatment vaccines. said Dr.

Scientists understand better than ever how cancer hides from the body’s immune system. Cancer vaccines, like other immunotherapies, boost the immune system to find and kill cancer cells. And some of the newer ones use mRNAs that were developed for cancer but were originally used in the COVID-19 vaccine.

For a vaccine to be effective, it must convince the immune system’s T cells to perceive cancer as dangerous, said Dr. Nora Disis of the University of Washington Medicine Cancer Vaccine Institute in Seattle. Once trained, T cells can travel anywhere in the body to hunt down danger.

“When you see activated T cells, it’s like having legs,” she said. “You can see it coming out through the blood vessels into the tissue.”

Patient volunteers are essential for research.

Kathleen Jade, 50, learned she had breast cancer in late February, just weeks before she and her husband left on a round-the-world trip. Instead of heading across the Great Lakes to the St. Lawrence Seaway in the 46-foot boat Shadowfax, she sat in her hospital bed awaiting her third dose of the experimental vaccine. She is getting the vaccine before her surgery to see if her tumor shrinks.

“Even if the chance was slim, I felt it was worth it,” said Jade, who is also receiving standard care.

Advances in therapeutic vaccines are extremely difficult. Provenzi was first approved in the US in 2010 for the treatment of metastatic prostate cancer. That would require the patient’s own immune cells to be processed in the lab and given back via an infusion. There are also therapeutic vaccines for early bladder cancer and advanced melanoma.

Olja Finn, a vaccine researcher at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said early cancer vaccine research stalled because cancer outmaneuvered patients’ weaker immune systems and allowed them to live longer. “We have learned so much from failing all these trials,” Finn said.

As a result, her focus is now on patients with early-stage disease, because experimental vaccines were ineffective in patients with more advanced disease. Her group plans a vaccine study for women with a low-risk, noninvasive breast cancer called ductal carcinoma in situ.

More vaccines to prevent cancer may also be developed. The decades-old hepatitis B vaccine protects against liver cancer, and the HPV vaccine, introduced in 2006, protects against cervical cancer.

In Philadelphia, Dr. Susan Domchek, director of Penn Medicine’s Vassar Center, is recruiting 28 healthy people with BRCA mutations for vaccine testing. These mutations increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. The idea is to kill the very early abnormal cells before they cause problems. She likens it to regularly weeding a garden or erasing a whiteboard.

Some are developing vaccines to prevent cancer in people with precancerous lung nodules or other genetic disorders that increase the risk of cancer.

Dr. Steve Lipkin, a medical geneticist at New York’s Weill Cornell School of Medicine, who is leading an effort funded by the National Cancer Institute, said in an effort to reduce cancer deaths, “maybe the next Vaccines are important for the future,” he said. “We dedicate our lives to it.”

People with the genetic disorder of Lynch syndrome have a 60% to 80% risk of developing cancer in their lifetime. Dr. Eduardo Villar Sanchez, of the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, who is leading two government-funded studies of vaccines for Lynch-associated cancers, said recruiting them to cancer vaccine trials was surprisingly easy. rice field.

“Patients have jumped at this with a surprising degree of positivity,” he says.

Drug companies Moderna and Merck are jointly developing a personalized mRNA vaccine for melanoma patients, with large-scale studies due to begin this year. Vaccines are customized for each patient based on the many mutations within the cancer tissue. Such a personalized vaccine could seek out cancer mutation fingerprints and train the immune system to kill those cells. However, such vaccines will be expensive.

“Basically every vaccine has to be made from scratch. If it wasn’t personalized, we could probably make a vaccine for a few pennies, just like the coronavirus vaccine,” said Dana of Boston. Dr. Patrick Ott of Farber Cancer Institute said.

A vaccine in development in Medicine, Wisconsin is designed to work for many patients, not just one. Screening for early and advanced breast, lung and ovarian cancer is ongoing. Results may come out as early as next year.

Todd Pieper, 56, of the Seattle suburb, is in a trial of a vaccine aimed at shrinking lung cancer tumors. His cancer has spread to his brain, but he hopes to live a long life before his daughter graduates from nursing school next year.

https://www.ocregister.com/2023/06/26/next-big-advance-in-cancer-treatment-may-be-a-vaccine/ Vaccines may be the next big advance in cancer treatment

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