Pancreatic cancer is one of the most aggressive and lethal forms of cancer. In a small trial, an mRNA-based vaccine for pancreatic cancer has been proven to be safe and effective in triggering an immune response, which has brought new hope in the battle against this specific form of deadly cancer. The new mRNA vaccine for pancreatic cancer has been developed by German drug maker BioNTech that developed one of the first COVID-19 shots with Pfizer. The trial utilized a pancreatic cancer mRNA shot personalized to each patient’s tumor to possibly prompt an immune response.
Immune system was able to identify up to 20 neoantigens
Usually, T cells of the immune system identify molecules known as checkpoint proteins to distinguish between healthy cells and infected cells, however, in some cases, cancer can T cells and refrain them from recognizing growing tumors. With the help of the personalized pancreatic cancer shot, the immune system was able to identify up to 20 neoantigens that are forms of muted proteins, that can be seen on cancer cells.
In the trial, 16 people who were suffering from the most standard form of pancreatic cancer and pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), got their tumors surgically detached and examined. Around nine weeks after the surgery, participants were given treatment with the checkpoint inhibitor atezolizumab before their first tailored vaccine was given intravenously. After a month, they were given a six-month chemotherapy régime before getting another dose of the vaccine.
After the first dose, T cells of 50 per cent of the participants were able to identify the cancer neoantigens in their blood and nearly 4 patients were found with T cells for multiple neoantigens. Despite Chemotherapy, T cells remained unaffected. None of the eight participants who reacted well to the personalized pancreatic cancer showed symptoms of their cancer reoccurrence.
80 per cent of patients who have been treated with only surgery and chemotherapy suffered cancer reoccurrence within 14 months of their treatment. Experts have claimed that it can be defined as the first patent victory of an mRNA shot for pancreatic cancer.