Biontech and Pfizer Test First Human Cancer Vaccine

T lymphocyte (orange) attached to a cancer cell (blue), illustration. T lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell which matures in the thymus. Certain kinds of T lymphocytes can recognise specific sites (antigens) on the surface of cancer cells or pathogens and bind to them. They can then destroy the cancer cells, or signal for other immune system cells to eliminate them. The genetic changes that cause a cell to become cancerous lead to the presentation of tumour antigens on the cell's surface.

The new cancer vaccine is designed to harness the natural power of the immune system to teach the human body to fight the disease.

BioNTech, the same company that developed one of the most widely used vaccines against COVID-19, is in the second phase of clinical trials for a cancer vaccine. At this stage, the pharmaceutical company is testing the drug on volunteers, as it has been proven safe enough to continue the research.

Teaching the immune system to fight cancer

Petri dish and pipette (Photo by Andrew Brookes / Image Source / Image Source via AFP)

Clinical Trials Arena has certified that BioNTech’s cancer vaccine is safe for experimental use in humans. According to the company, this could be an effective alternative for very aggressive cases of skin cancer and bring hope to patients who have been diagnosed as terminal.

As with the coronavirus, the pharmaceutical company will collaborate with Pfizer to produce this drug. It is based on messenger RNA technology, which teaches the immune system how to fight cancer cells. However, unlike the alternative COVID -19, it can only be tested on patients already suffering from cancer.

For this reason, the study recruited people at stage III or IV to track their progress after receiving the drug. BioNTech co-founder Özlem Türeci says it is necessary to “harness the power of the immune system against cancer and infectious diseases“.

Goodbye cancer?

Thyroid cancer cells, illustration. (Photo by KATERYNA KON/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRA / KKO / Science Photo Library via AFP)

Türeci knows that cancer claims millions of lives around the world every year. Therefore, the manager is sure that the same formula that was applied in the case of the coronavirus can also be applied in the case of the cancer vaccine:

“We were able to demonstrate the efficacy of mRNA vaccines against COVID-19. We must remember that cancer poses a greater threat to global health than the current pandemic.”

However, early diagnosis is essential for the injection to be effective. Just as 7.7 billion vaccines against COVID-19 have been produced, the pharmaceutical company wants to produce enough vaccines to supply the world’s population. If the tests in this and the next phase continue to be so positive, advanced-stage cancer could no longer be a death sentence in the near future.


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