The German pharmaceutical firm that worked with Pfizer in 2020 to develop the first coronavirus vaccine is now developing a new vaccine that harnesses the same mRNA technology it used to create an mRNA cancer vaccine. The firm, BioNTech, is currently conducting a phase 2 clinical trial for the experimental vaccine, which involves participants with cancer.
BioNTech was founded more than a decade ago, with its CEO, Dr. Uğur Şahin, revealing that the company’s objective is to develop cancer therapies. The company isn’t the only one focused on developing mRNA vaccines for various indications, as the technology is said to have the potential to treat or maybe even cure chronic ailments.
mRNA, or messenger RNA in full, are small bits of genetic code that tell an individual’s body how to build proteins, which are crucial building blocks of every cell in the human body. mRNA vaccines work by using the genetic material to train an individual’s immune system to target a particular protein. In cancer, this may be a protein on the tumor cell’s surface, while in SARS-CoV-2, it is the spike protein on the virus’ surface. Once an individual’s immune system recognizes the protein, it can manufacture antibodies that fight and eliminate the proteins.
Ohio State University associate professor of pharmacology and pharmaceutics Yizhou Dong explained that mRNA was a unique entity with a simple code that could be applied to any peptide or protein, which made it very adaptable. It should be noted that Dong isn’t involved in the development of the BioNTech vaccine.
BioNTech chose to focus on colorectal cancer because the ailment has a high relapse rate. Data from the CDC shows that colorectal cancer has been increasing among individuals aged 65 and below in the last 10 years. Research conducted by the American Cancer Society supports this data, with its findings showing that individuals born in 1990 were twice as likely to develop colorectal cancer in their lifetimes when compared to those born in 1950.
Şahin stated that even with existing treatments, nearly 40% of patients with colorectal cancer relapse two to three years after surgery, noting that the relapse was caused by cancer metastasis. The company hopes that its vaccine, which has been developed to fight and kill cancer cells using the body’s immune system, will help prevent the relapses.
It is currently enrolling patients in Spain, Germany and Belgium for additional trials. To take part in the trial, a patient needs to have tiny fragments of cancer DNA in their blood, even after undergoing chemotherapy or surgery.
With next-gen cancer diagnostics being developed by entities such as AnPac Bio-Medical Science Co. Ltd. (NASDAQ: ANPC) and the research community searching for new treatment approaches, a time may come when cancer’s toll on humanity dwindles considerably.
NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to AnPac Bio-Medical Science Co. Ltd. (NASDAQ: ANPC) are available in the company’s newsroom at https://ibn.fm/ANPC
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