A Vaccine in the Fight against Pancreatic Cancer


The survival rate of pancreatic cancer has not improved in sixty years and remains at twelve percent. This makes it one of the most deadly of all cancers.

But the same vaccine technology used to create the COVID vaccine is now behind one being developed for pancreatic cancer. And it seems to work!

Neoantigens are proteins that appear on the surface of cancer cells as the result of genetic changes in the tumors. Normally the immune system does not recognize and attack proteins made by your body's own cells.

But it could be made to recognize these abnormal proteins if the vaccine is tailored to target a patient's specific neoantigens.

Scientists at BioNTech, the same company that teamed with Pfizer on a COVID vaccine worked on this one based on the same mRNA technology. They made vaccines that instructs cells in the body to make the same neoantigens found on their tumors.

This would stimulate and enhance the immune responses against a patient's tumor. In a small study, sixteen patients were given the vaccines along with chemotherapy and a drug to keep tumors from evading the immune system.

Half the patients developed robust immune responses that lasted up to 2 years. And for eighteen months, they didn't relapse. The vaccines were safe which paves the way for a much larger study.

It took nine weeks to produce each patient's vaccine. Their goal is four weeks at a cost of one hundred thousand dollars. Despite this hefty price tag, this is giant progress in pancreatic cancer treatment.

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