What if the vaccine could be the solution to prevent cancer? This is what some scientists hope they can do in order to allow our bodies to be able to make antibodies and cells that could detect the disease so that they no longer have to fight cancer, but prevent it.
A study underway to develop a preventive vaccine
Of course, there are already some vaccines that can block oncogenic viruses for certain cancers. But right now no vaccine is able to attack cancer cells that grow because of genetics or the environment. This is why a team of researchers looked into the question to launch a clinical trial since 2018 in order to find the solution.
Indeed, scientists are working on a panel of 50 smokers or ex-smokers by injecting them an MUC1 vaccine made up of the protein of the same name which is normally expressed in many organs such as the lungs, stomach, intestines… In cancer, this same protein mutates.
The abnormal MUC1 protein is then present in many tumors. The latter use it as fuel to grow and to fight against treatments. The team that discovered it therefore wishes to making a target tumor antigen with a vaccine so that our immune system can make good antibodies.
A vaccine that remains a utopia for now
This is what they did in 2013 by administering this vaccine to 39 elderly patients at risk of colon cancer. Of this panel, 17 had been able to offer an important protective response and the other 22 had not been able to manufacture effective antibody production due to an already weakened immune system. The researchers believe that it is therefore necessary vaccinate those at risk at an even earlier stage. Therefore, they imagine that in the event of the appearance of premalignant lesions, it would be necessary vaccinate the patient so that the immune system can stop the abnormal cells and eliminate cancer cells. The idea would therefore be to preventively vaccinate an individual at risk of cancer so that you don’t have to wait for it to develop.
Except that in the case of cancer, tumor cells are extremely diverse. A bit like with HIV, antigens are constantly evolving. Ideally, in order to develop a universal preventive cancer vaccine, it would be necessary to know precisely the mutations, cancer mechanisms and antigens common to cancers to be able to develop this kind of treatment. For some specialists, the MUC1 vaccine is not the ideal solution for now, unless the current study reveals convincing results. It turns out that the idea of a vaccine to eradicate cancer is not as simple as a vaccine to fight a virus. Suffice to say that this track to fight against cancer remains a utopia at the present time.