New vaccine developed by BioNTech and Genentech could prevent deadliest pancreatic cancer from returning

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Experts have welcomed a cutting-edge vaccine that could prevent pancreatic cancer from returning (stock image of woman about to have an injection)

A new vaccine using the same mRNA technology as Covid vaccines could prevent deadly pancreatic cancer from returning, study shows

  • The old-age vaccine against pancreatic cancer was praised by experts after the study
  • Findings suggest personalized vaccines could prevent deadly diseases from returning
  • A quarter of patients with pancreatic cancer survive more than a year because the T cells are not active
  • 8 participants had cells that recognized disease and remained cancer-free 18 months later

Experts have hailed a cutting-edge vaccine that could prevent pancreatic cancer from coming back.

Initial study results suggest that the personalized vaccines prime the body to prevent the deadly disease from recurring.

Only a quarter of patients survive a year or more after diagnosis, and pancreatic cancer often goes undetected because the immune system fails to recognize the tumor cells as a threat.

But a small subset of patients beat the odds after their tumor is removed. A team led by Dr. Vinod Balachandran of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York found that their tumors contained large numbers of pathogen-destroying T cells.

Experts have welcomed a cutting-edge vaccine that could prevent pancreatic cancer from returning (stock image of woman about to have an injection)

Experts have welcomed a cutting-edge vaccine that could prevent pancreatic cancer from returning (stock image of woman about to have an injection)

They designed a study involving 16 people with pancreatic cancer who received tailor-made vaccines after surgery.

The vaccine uses part of the tumor’s genetic code to teach the cells to make a protein that triggers an immune response.

This allows the body to “recognize” the cancer as a threat and the T-cells to destroy it if it returns. In eight of the participants, the vaccine activated T cells to recognize the disease. They remained cancer-free 18 months later.

dr Speaking at the American Society for Clinical Oncology annual conference in Chicago, Balachandran said, “All therapies are currently largely ineffective in pancreatic cancer.

“The early results suggest that you may have a better outcome if you have an immune response.”

dr  Chris MacDonald, head of research at Pancreatic Cancer UK, said a tailor-made vaccine would be a

dr Chris MacDonald, head of research at Pancreatic Cancer UK, said a tailor-made vaccine would be a “vital new weapon against the deadliest common cancer” (stock image from a UK NHS station).

In most patients who did not respond to the vaccine, the cancer came back and some died.

The vaccine was developed with pharmaceutical giant BioNTech, which used similar mRNA technology to make the Covid vaccine, and US firm Genentech.

dr Chris MacDonald, head of research at Pancreatic Cancer UK, said a tailor-made vaccine would be a “vital new weapon against the deadliest common cancer”.

In the UK, around 10,500 people are diagnosed with the disease each year, of whom 9,600 die.

WHAT IS PANCREA CANCER?

Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest forms of the disease, and about 95 percent of people who contract it die from it.

Joan Crawford, Patrick Swayze and Luciano Pavarotti all died of pancreatic cancer.

It is the sixth leading cause of cancer deaths in the UK – around 10,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the UK each year, alongside around 55,000 in the US.

WHAT IS THE REASON?

It is caused by the abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells in the pancreas – a large gland in the digestive system.

WHO IS AT THE HIGHEST RISK?

Most cases (90 percent) occur in people over the age of 55.

About half of all new cases occur in people aged 75 and over.

One in 10 cases is attributed to genetics.

Other possible causes include age, smoking, and other health conditions, including diabetes.

WHY IS IT SO DEADLY?

There is no screening procedure for pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer typically has no symptoms in the early stages when it is more manageable.

Sufferers tend to develop the telltale signs — jaundice and abdominal pain — around stage 3 or 4, when they’ve probably already spread to other organs.

WHAT ARE THE TREATMENT OPTIONS?

The only effective treatment is removal of the pancreas.

This proves largely ineffective for those whose cancer has spread to other organs.

In these cases, palliative care is recommended to relieve their pain at the end of their lives.

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