Explained | How can mRNA vaccines help fight cancer?

Source: The post is based on the article “Explained | How can mRNA vaccines help fight cancer?” published in The Hindu on 20th December 2022

What is the News?

The results of a trial of an experimental mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) cancer vaccine made by Moderna and MSD (Merck & Co.) taken along with immunotherapy drug Keytruda has shown promising results against advanced melanoma, a kind of skin cancer.

What is mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) cancer vaccine?

It is a personalised cancer vaccine which means it is tailor-made for every patient.

To build the vaccine, researchers took samples of patients’ tumours and healthy tissue. 

After analyzing the samples to decode their genetic sequence and isolate mutant proteins associated only with cancer, that information was used to design a tailor-made cancer vaccine.

Note: This vaccine uses the same messenger-RNA technology that was used to produce the COVID vaccine. 

How does the vaccine work?

The personalised cancer vaccine works in concert with Keytruda, to disable a protein called Programmed Death 1 (PD-1), which helps tumours to evade the immune system.

When injected into a patient, the patient’s cells act as a manufacturing plant, producing perfect copies of the mutations for the immune system to recognise and destroy the cancer cells.

What is the significance of this vaccine?

The vaccine has shown a 44% reduction in the risk of dying of cancer or having cancer progress. Hence, this could lead to new ways to fight other types of cancers too.

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