A new vaccine developed by BioNTech and Genentech could prevent the return of the deadliest pancreatic cancer

A new vaccine could prevent the deadliest cancer from returning as early tests suggest it could help prevent the recurrence of pancreatic disease

  • Age-defying pancreatic cancer vaccine hailed by experts after trial
  • Findings suggest personalized vaccines could prevent return of deadly disease
  • A quarter of pancreatic cancer patients survive more than a year because T cells are not active
  • 8 participants had cells recognizing the disease and remaining cancer-free 18 months later

Experts have hailed a breakthrough vaccine that could prevent pancreatic cancer from returning.

Early trial results suggest personalized vaccines are preparing the body to prevent the deadly disease from returning.

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 tumor cells as threats.

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

Experts have hailed a breakthrough vaccine that could prevent pancreatic cancer from returning (image of a woman about to be vaccinated)

They designed a trial involving 16 people with pancreatic cancer who received tailored vaccines after undergoing surgery.

The vaccine uses a piece of genetic code from the tumor to teach cells to make a protein that will trigger an immune response.

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

Dr. Balachandran told the American Society for Clinical Oncology annual conference in Chicago: “For pancreatic cancer, currently, all therapies are largely ineffective.

“Early results suggest that if you have an immune response, you may have better results.”

Dr Chris MacDonald, head of research at Pancreatic Cancer UK, said a bespoke 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’ (image from an NHS service in the UK)

Most patients who did not respond to the vaccine saw their cancer come back and some died.

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

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

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

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