Cancer: Personalized mRNA vaccines show promise in pancreatic cancer(Nature)

A personalized mRNA vaccine induces a substantial immune response and potentially delays relapse in patients with a form of pancreatic cancer called pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), when used in conjunction with other treatments, reports a study published in Nature.

PDAC is the third largest cause of cancer death in the United States and has poor survival rates, which have remained at 12% for the past 60 years. A combination of surgical and medicinal therapies can delay recurrence, but they have poor rates of success. Recent literature has suggested that most PDACs harbour increased levels of neoantigens, which are cell-surface proteins that can emerge on the surface of tumours following certain types of DNA mutations. These proteins can be targeted by personalized vaccine therapies with the aim of boosting T cell activity and improving outcomes.

In a phase I clinical trial, Vinod Balachandran and colleagues administered a personalized mRNA vaccine called adjuvant autogene cevumeran in combination with chemotherapy and immunotherapy in 16 patients with PDAC. 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.

These results demonstrate the potential of individualized mRNA vaccines in treating PDAC, as well as providing evidence of their general effectiveness as a therapeutic tool in treating disease. The authors note that despite the limited sample size, these early results indicate that larger studies of such vaccines for PDAC are warranted.

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