Fight Against Cancer: Soon Anti-cancer Vaccines?

While cancer affects 382,000 people per year in France, the proportion of patients who survive the disease is increasing overall. This rather positive observation is not the only good reason to hope. Researchers are experimenting with new strategies to strengthen the body's immune defenses to fight cancer cells. Several promising advances give hope for the development of anti-cancer vaccines in a few years. Here are some explanations.

A change in strategy

Conventional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy aim to destroy cancer cells. Despite their effectiveness, these therapies have burdensome side effects, which has led researchers to explore new strategies against the disease.

In just a few years, there have been major advances in the fight against cancer, with the development of treatments that are able to target cancer cells much more precisely based on tumor type.

In addition, to treat cancers that do not respond to conventional treatments, doctors have adopted a new strategy: strengthening the body's immune system to take on the task of fighting the cancer.

This shift in perspective is the source of immunotherapy but also many ongoing cancer vaccine investigations.

Therapeutic vaccines

Unlike the HPV vaccine, which is a preventive vaccine against certain cancers (cervical cancer and ENT cancers in particular), the cancer vaccines being worked on by several research teams around the world are therapeutic vaccines.

This means that their purpose is not to prevent disease (as the flu vaccine would do, for example), but to cure patients who have cancer by acting on their immune systems.

It is important to know that every day our immune system protects us from cancer because it normally has the ability to recognize and destroy cancer cells. The disease appears when this defense system goes haywire, hence the interest in coming to support the patient's immune defenses with a vaccine to prevent relapse.

Promising research on mice

The development of cancer vaccines is of interest to many research teams around the world, but they are not all working on the same types of cancers and are not at the same stage in the development of these new treatments.

In a January 4, 2023, paper in the journal Science Translational Medicine, one team explains that they have successfully used modified live tumor cells to destroy the tumor and induce an immune response in mice with glioblastoma (a form of brain cancer).

The researchers now hope to transfer their method to humans to develop a therapeutic vaccine. They also explain in their publication that their therapeutic strategy is not limited to glioblastoma but is theoretically applicable to a wider range of tumors...

Tailor-made vaccines for humans

At the Toulouse Oncopole, therapeutic cancer vaccines are already being tested on patients and offer encouraging results in preventing recurrence of ENT and ovarian cancer.

The Toulouse Oncopole is coordinating an international study to develop personalized therapeutic cancer vaccines. Specifically, this type of vaccine reprograms the patient's immune system so that it can prevent any remaining cancer cells from developing.

Once doctors remove the tumor, it is analyzed and a vaccine is custom-made based on the tumor's antigens. This customized treatment is given to the patient at the end of their course of care to prevent recurrence.

Since 2021, a dozen patients with ENT cancers have already received this type of personalized therapeutic vaccine and they are relapse-free.

The hope of a market launch within 5 years

As the research discussed above demonstrates, cancer vaccines are no longer science fiction but science. The team at the Toulouse Oncopole will launch a larger-scale study by the end of 2023, with the hope of bringing their vaccine to market within 5 years.

This therapeutic avenue, which is one of the most promising at the moment, could furthermore see its development accelerated by messenger RNA technology, which has been widely reported during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Germany's BioNTech has announced that it will set up a new research center in the UK to conduct large-scale clinical trials of a messenger RNA cancer vaccine starting in the fall of 2023. The German startup is working on developing vaccines against certain breast, prostate and skin tumors.

Author: Audrey
Copyright image: Alain Bachellier
Tags: cancer, vaccine, vaccines, cells, tumor, disease, cancer vaccines, Toulouse, ENT, Immune System, MICE, market, Messenger RNA, immune defenses, tumors, antigens, Ovarian cancer, science fiction, skin, technology, COVID-19 pandemic, prostate, breast, startup, German, cancer vaccine, Clinical Trials, BioNTech, Germany, glioblastoma, brain cancer, Observation, chemotherapy, Radiation therapy, side effects, Immunotherapy, cancer vaccine, HPV vaccine, Cervical cancer, cancer vaccines, Flu vaccine, defense, relapse, January 4, paper, Science Translational Medicine, tumor cells, immune response, France,
In French: Lutte contre le cancer : bientôt des vaccins anti-cancer ?
En español: Lucha contra el cáncer: ¿próximas vacunas contra el cáncer?
In italiano: Lotta al cancro: in arrivo i vaccini antitumorali?
Auf Deutsch: Kampf gegen den Krebs: Bald Impfstoffe gegen Krebs?
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