Vaccines to treat cancer possible by 2030, say BioNTech founders

Authored by and submitted by BitterFuture
image for Vaccines to treat cancer possible by 2030, say BioNTech founders

Vaccines that target cancer could be available before the end of the decade, according to the husband and wife team behind one of the most successful Covid vaccines of the pandemic.

Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci, who co-founded BioNTech, the German firm that partnered with Pfizer to manufacture a revolutionary mRNA Covid vaccine, said they had made breakthroughs that fuelled their optimism for cancer vaccines in the coming years.

Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, Prof Türeci described how the mRNA technology at the heart of BioNTech’s Covid vaccine could be repurposed so that it primed the immune system to attack cancer cells instead of invading coronaviruses.

Asked when cancer vaccines based on mRNA might be ready to use in patients, Prof Sahin said they could be available “before 2030”.

An mRNA Covid vaccine works by ferrying the genetic instructions for harmless spike proteins on the Covid virus into the body. The instructions are taken up by cells which churn out the spike protein. These proteins, or antigens, are then used as “wanted posters” – telling the immune system’s antibodies and other defences what to search for and attack.

The same approach can be taken to prime the immune system to seek out and destroy cancer cells, said Türeci, BioNTech’s chief medical officer. Rather than carrying code that identifies viruses, the vaccine contains genetic instructions for cancer antigens – proteins that stud the surfaces of tumour cells.

BioNTech was working on mRNA cancer vaccines before the pandemic struck but the firm pivoted to produce Covid vaccines in the face of the global emergency. The firm now has several cancer vaccines in clinical trials. Türeci said the development and success of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which is similar to the Moderna Covid shot, “gives back to our cancer work”.

The German firm hopes to develop treatments for bowel cancer, melanoma and other cancer types, but substantial hurdles lie ahead. The cancer cells that make up tumours can be studded with a wide variety of different proteins, making it extremely difficult to make a vaccine that targets all of the cancer cells and no healthy tissues.

Türeci told Kuenssberg that BioNTech had learned how to manufacture mRNA vaccines faster during the pandemic, and had a better understanding of how people’s immune systems responded to mRNA. The intense development and rapid rollout of the Covid shot had also helped medicines regulators work out how to approve the vaccines. “This will definitely accelerate also our cancer vaccine,” she added.

But Türeci remained cautious about the work. “As scientists we are always hesitant to say we will have a cure for cancer,” she said. “We have a number of breakthroughs and we will continue to work on them.”

In August, Moderna said it was suing BioNTech and its partner, the US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, for patent infringement over the company’s Covid-19 vaccine.

Asked about that, Sahin said: “Our innovations are original. We have spent 20 years of research in developing this type of treatment and of course we will fight for our intellectual property.”

OreoDestroyer93 on October 17th, 2022 at 19:28 UTC »

I love this news.

Unfortunately, I have stage 4 esophageal cancer and there is very good chance that I won’t live to see anything more than my doctors can give to help me right now.

Pretty rare for a 29 year old to have, but that’s not really the point.

I would be happy to know that my 3 brothers would never have to go through this treatment and spend time contemplating what death is like so soon. Especially glad that they won’t have to spend time writing a will to make sure that their death doesn’t cause any issues when they should be getting married or traveling.

It’s not about the fact that I won’t benefit or that it won’t bring me back, it’s the fact that no one else will deal with it or lose a loved one to cancer. Great good can be done even when you aren’t the one on the receiving end.

I hope I do make it that long and I hope I’m reading my journal where I talk about my thoughts on death and how much I enjoyed being a part of my family, but I’ll keep writing and hoping to make sure that if I die that my thoughts and feelings are still there and if I don’t I can remember to cherish the time I have and the gift I was given.

Here’s to seeing this in 8 years. See ya then.

Matelot67 on October 17th, 2022 at 18:20 UTC »

Bring it on. I can hold on until then.

When I went in to remission, my oncologist said that if I stayed in remission for 5 years, I can then call myself 'cured'

Well, I hit 5 years YESTERDAY!

Haunter369 on October 17th, 2022 at 13:10 UTC »

I respect from the bottom of my heart those doctors, researchers, scientists who are constantly trying to find a cure for cancer. Although I know I will never get my grandmother back, I want our future generations to be freed from this curse as soon as possible.