Personalized mRNA vaccine could aid in the fight against pancreatic cancer

A sample of cells from each individual's tumor was taken for DNA and RNA sequencing in order to create personalized vaccines.
Mrigakshi Dixit
Representative image of pancreas.
Representative image of pancreas.


Scientists have created the first-of-its-kind personalized mRNA vaccine in an effort to combat pancreatic cancer. 

Patients were enrolled in clinical trials to test this personalized approach to treat a type of pancreatic cancer known as pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). 

The approach to creating a cancer vaccine 

Recent studies have found elevated levels of neoantigens in PDAC. Neoantigens are proteins that generally form on the surface of cancer cells. These proteins can be targeted in developing personalized therapies, such as vaccines, to improve immune function in PDAC patients. The vaccines would increase T cell activity, a type of white blood cell that is part of our immune system.

A sample of cells from each individual's tumor was taken for DNA and RNA sequencing to create personalized vaccines. This procedure aided in the identification of mutant versions of proteins (neoantigens) that form in cancer cells. Finally, this neoantigen was used to create personalized messenger RNA vaccines

The results showed that the individual vaccine candidate could improve immune response and delay the possibility of cancer relapse in the selected patients. 

The phase 1 trials included 16 patients with PDAC. According to the study, all these patients had their tumors surgically removed. Each of the patients was given a personalized mRNA vaccine called adjuvant autogene cevumeran by the researchers. The vaccine was given alongside other treatments, such as chemotherapy and immunotherapy. 

“They observed substantial T cell responses in 50% of patients, indicating that the vaccine can induce an improved immune response. After an 18-month follow-up, the elevated immune responses in patients correlated with longer times to relapse, whereas patients that showed no response to the vaccine experienced progression at a median of 13.4 months after the initial assessment,” explained the official statement

This preliminary study provides hope for treating PDAC with personalized mRNA vaccines. In the future, the researchers hope to conduct vaccine trials on a larger group of patients to test its efficacy.  

If the personalized vaccine proves to be effective, it could significantly improve the lives of PDAC patients. PDAC is one of the leading causes of cancer death in the United States, and patients with this pancreatic cancer have a lower survival rate. Surgical and medicinal therapies are commonly used to delay the chances of cancer recurrence, but these strategies have a low success rate. 

Various institutes, including Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, conducted the vaccine trial.

The results have been published in the journal Nature

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