The latest coronavirus vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna use messenger RNA (mRNA) technology to tackle the virus. Meanwhile, scientists suggest that this technology can also help fight cancer cells in the body.
According to DR. Jeffrey A. Metts from the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, mRNA vaccines can target the protein produced by cancer cells. However, the vaccines can only prevent cancer but not treat it. For instance, the drop in the cases of cervical cancer occurred due to the HPV vaccine and early screening in the patients.
The HPV vaccine helped prevent nearly 90 percent of cases of cervix cancer but it was unable to treat any patients.
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The coronavirus vaccines are designed to program the immune response of the body against the infection. Therefore, when the virus attacks the body, it already has the antibodies to tackle the infection. Similarly, cancer vaccines have the same mechanism of priming the immune system to attack any cancer cells and also prevent them from coming back.
The technology used in these vaccines comprises the mRNA which has highly flexible properties against cancer cells. However, scientists face a challenge regarding this therapy that it does not last for long in the body. Meanwhile, a recent study looked at the innovative methods to erase this challenge and provide more effective mRNA vaccines.
The research was published recently in the journal Nano Letters by the American Chemical Society.
Researchers from China developed a hydrogel that can stabilize this mRNA inside the body. The mRNA releases slowly from the hydrogel along with an adjuvant. This adjuvant helps improve the immune response of the body towards the vaccine. Also, this mechanism can allow the therapy to stay inside the body for a month.
The research included lab mice with cancer who received these treatments. Also, the scientists observed that the tumor size reduced in these mice, and cancer did not spread further after the therapy. According to the researchers, this therapy can help treat cancer in humans in the future after further trials.
The researchers are hopeful that these mRNA vaccines may treat cancer as well as preventing it. This new research will help scientists develop new drugs for cancer therapy and probably cure it in humans. The mRNA vaccines have a similar mechanism as the cancer therapies used today. However, both of them are not the same and have some differences. The mRNA vaccines particularly target infectious diseases while the immunotherapies are for cancer.
According to the researchers, cancer is more complex than infectious diseases and the cancer cells carry our DNA which mutates consistently. Therefore, all kinds of cancer are different due to the unique DNA. The researchers will need to conduct further clinical trials and test the efficacy of mRNA vaccines on cancer cells.
The coronavirus vaccines came as a huge success after the pandemic caused the health care system to collapse in several countries. However, the cases are now reducing as the people continue to get their shots of the vaccine with time.