BioNTech has brought 11 cancer-fighting mRNA vaccines to human trials

Tram Ho

Following the resounding success of an mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine, German biotech company BioNTech is redirecting its development to new mRNA vaccines, for cancers.

According to research published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, BioNTech’s vaccine, codenamed SAR441000 (BNT131), has undergone successful trials in mice and is being tested on 231 cancer patients with cancer. metastatic tumor.

This is part of a phase I human clinical trial to make sure this cancer vaccine is safe. The scientists will also further evaluate its immunogenicity, an initial factor in determining whether it is effective against cancerous tumors.

BioNTech đã đưa 11 vắc-xin mRNA chữa ung thư tiến tới thử nghiệm trên người - Ảnh 1.

According to BioNTech’s website announcing clinical trials, BNT131 is one of 11 vaccine candidates being tested on cancer patients. Like the COVID-19 vaccine, NT131 also uses mRNA to give cells in the body to make a special protein. In this case are proteins called cytokines, previously known for their anti-tumor effects.

Cytokines are created naturally in the body. But the BNT131 vaccine targets their replenishment at sites where cancerous tumors appear. Preclinical studies show that this can help shrink or even completely destroy cancerous tumors.

However, things are not so simple when it comes to injecting cytokines into the desired area. That’s because cytokines have a very short half-life – they break down in the body quickly as a means of preventing toxicity, and so previous treatments required cytokines to be used continuously. .

Unfortunately, such infusion of this protein into the body can cause toxicity, produce a lot of side effects, and block cytokines from being used as a basic cancer therapy just like chemotherapy.

BioNTech đã đưa 11 vắc-xin mRNA chữa ung thư tiến tới thử nghiệm trên người - Ảnh 2.

To overcome the above limitations, scientists at BioNTech have devised a way. They inserted a mixture of four cytokine-coding mRNAs directly into the tumor. This helps the cells to produce cytokines in large quantities, enough to fight the overproduction of cancer cells, including metastatic cells.

In a trial that BioNTech collaborated with pharmaceutical company Sanofi, this mRNA therapy worked in 20 mice with melanoma, 17 of which produced enough cytokines to destroy all tumors in the body. within 40 days.

The test was then carried out on mice with melanoma and lung cancer. The mRNA injections this time, although not able to completely cure the mice, did help them to significantly shrink tumors and limit metastasis.

Experiments show that the new mRNA therapy is effective against targeted tumors and any secondary tumors arising therefrom. It also proved the therapy was safe enough, that the mice did not exhibit any of the side effects normally seen with standard cytokine therapy.

BioNTech đã đưa 11 vắc-xin mRNA chữa ung thư tiến tới thử nghiệm trên người - Ảnh 3.

Based on the success in mice, researchers at BioNTech quickly moved on to human trials. Reporting in the journal Science Translational Medicine, BioNTech said that at least the first 17 volunteers out of 231 patients with metastatic cancer received the BNT131 vaccine to activate the cytokine protein.

In which, there were 7 patients with melanoma skin cancer, 4 with breast cancer, 2 with sarcoma, 2 with squamous cell skin cancer, 1 with basal cell skin cancer and the last patient. with Merkel cell skin cancer.

Through treatment, no patient experienced serious adverse effects from cytokines. In some patients, the researchers observed immune cells infiltrating the tumor, a sign that they were beginning to destroy it.

This phase I clinical trial is still ongoing and is expected to be completed in June next year. Its results will then be evaluated to see if the study can move right into phase III, as some vaccines can now test phase I and II in combination.

In addition to BNT131, BioNTech said it is testing a total of 10 cancer mRNA vaccines in humans, including: BTN111, BNT112, BNT113, BNT114, BNT115, BNT122, BNT311, BNT312, BNT321, BNT411 targeting different types of cancer. skin cancer, pancreatic, breast, prostate and other solid tumors.

How is the cancer-fighting mRNA vaccine made?

After the COVID-19 pandemic, mRNA has shown itself to be a new but highly effective and safe technology. The mRNA vaccines are not only effective against infectious disease, but can also fight many autoimmune diseases, genetic diseases and even cancer.

According to statistics of a study in the journal Nature, there are currently about 60 clinical trials of an mRNA cancer vaccine underway, some of which have shown very optimistic results. Some of the patients participating in the mRNA vaccine trial escaped death with their cancer reaching an advanced stage and unresponsive to any other treatment.

Refer to Iflscience , BioNTech

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Source : Genk