Friday, December 29, 2023

Small clinical trial shows promise in pancreatic cancer vaccine, story in New York Times reports

Using a vaccine aimed at each patient's tumor may have delayed the return of pancreatic cancer in half of those who received it in a small clinical trial.

According to a story by Benjamin Mueller in editions of The New York Times from a while ago that I just came acrossa study in Nature, "was a landmark in the…movement to make cancer vaccines tailored to the tumors of individual patients."

Dr. Anirban Maitra
Dr. Anirban Maitra, specialist in the disease at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, who was not involved in the study, is quoted as saying, "This is the first demonstrable success — and I will call it a success despite the preliminary nature of the study — of an mRNA vaccine in pancreatic cancer. By that standard, it's a milestone."

The study only dealt with 16 White patients who were given the vaccine as part of a treatment that also "included chemotherapy and a drug intended to keep tumors from evading people's immune responses," Mueller's story indicated.

Five years ago, when researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Center in New York extracted tumors and shipped samples of them to Germany, the study started. In that country, scientists at BioNTech, the company that made a Covid vaccine with Pfizer, analyzed the genetic makeup of certain proteins on the surface of the cancer cells. BioNTech scientists then produced personalized vaccines "designed to teach each patient's immune system to attack the tumors," the Times story reported.

The piece also quoted Dr. Ira Mellman, vice president of cancer immunology at Genentech, which developed the pancreatic cancer vaccine with BioNTech, as saying, "Just establishing the proof of concept that vaccines in cancer can actually do something after, I don't know, 30 years of failure is probably not a bad thing. We'll start with that."

More information about medical research can be found in Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer, a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers. 

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