UK: Cancer Vaccine Trials Set For This Year

The pharmaceutical company BioNTech has inked a deal with the UK government to conduct trials for an mRNA-based cancer vaccine this year.

UK: Cancer Vaccine Trials Set For This Year
Image credit: CDC / Unsplash

Facts

  • The pharmaceutical company BioNTech has inked a deal with the UK government to conduct trials for an mRNA-based cancer vaccine this year.
  • BioNTech, which developed a COVID mRNA vaccine in collaboration with Pfizer, announced plans to open new UK research centers and administer 10k doses of the treatment by 2030. The mRNA therapies introduce personalized pieces of genetic code to help train the immune system to fight cancerous cells, leaving healthy cells unharmed.
  • Unlike traditional vaccines, mRNA treatments utilize genetic instructions to train the body to produce parts of a virus, instead of using inactive viral cells. The COVID pandemic reignited interest in the technology, with scientists hoping that the method can be used to treat other illnesses.
  • UK health secretary Steve Barclay stated that "as early as September," cancer patients in the UK will have access to clinical trials providing "targeted, personalized and precision treatments using transformative new therapies to both treat the existing cancer and help stop it returning."
  • BioNTech co-founder Özlem Türeci praised the UK as a "great partner" for these trials, citing their fast approval processes for COVID vaccines and genomic-analysis capabilities. Cancer Research UK welcomed the news, but warned that a straining National Health Service may hinder swift advancement of these trials.
  • While mRNA cancer treatments are in the early stages of development, data from a study last year showed that mRNA vaccines were able to generate a custom immune response in eight out of sixteen pancreatic cancer patients after nine doses, receiving one dose per week.

Sources: Telegraph, CNBC, Forbes, Guardian, and BBC News.

Narratives

  • Pro-establishment narrative, as provided by Technology Review. mRNA technologies are the future of healthcare, and the UK government is wise to make big investments. The COVID pandemic has shown that these treatments can be safe and effective, and there is hope that everything from the flu to HIV will eventually be able to be treated via mRNA vaccines. This news is no surprise to anybody who has kept their pulse on the health world, as we will finally see just how far mRNA technologies can go in treating diseases.
  • Establishment-critical narrative, as provided by MSN. Once again, the media is running away with science news at a breathless pace. While the trials were promising, the studies on mRNA cancer treatments do not indicate some kind of miracle cure. It is unlikely that mRNA vaccines will be first-line treatments for cancer anytime soon, as they mostly prevent the reoccurrence of cancer. The UK government is selling false hope to their people with their imprecise messaging.