Vaccines are, perhaps, our greatest weapon against many different types of diseases and medical conditions that would be impossible to deal with in any other way. Training a person’s immune system to identify and attack specific cells is a very effective method since it not only launches the success rate of the treatment, but it also limits the appearance of side effects. The latest news concerning vaccines includes some very promising results and steps towards manufacturing a cancer vaccine. And if that was not good enough, this new vaccine will be capable of dealing with all types of cancer.
The first results that derived from early stages of human trials offer hope since they showed that the vaccine can indeed activate the patient’s immune system and train it to attack the tumors.
But why doesn’t our body do this in the first place, since the tumors are such a huge threat to it? Immunology has the answer to this question. The reason is that cancer cells have very few differences from the normal, healthy cells of our body so they are not recognized as an intruder that must be attacked and destroyed. What must be done is find a way to emphasize these few differences and turn them into criteria for our immune system to choose their targets. This is exactly what researchers have done.
The team behind the aforementioned breakthrough, consisting of medical experts from the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, located in Germany, managed to “tweak” the RNA of cancer cells by covering them with an acid membrane and also altering their charge, making it negative. These altered cancer cells are then injected in the bloodstream and due to their negative charge move towards the lymph nodes, bone marrow and spleen where they are “labeled” dangerous and become a target of the T-cells.
However, for now our enthusiasm should be limited since it is way too early to have solid proof that the vaccine is actually doing what it is supposed to 100% of the time. So far, it has been proven to work in cases of mice that have tumors and it has also been tested on three melanoma patients in order to check the side effects. Amazingly, they were limited to symptoms of the common flu, which is a huge improvement when compared to the known ones that chemotherapy causes.
We are probably on the way towards one of the greatest scientific achievements of all time. Creating a cure for cancer has been eluding us for decades. Given the unique nature of the treatment, this could be the first time we are approaching the definite defeat of the toughest medical opponent we have ever faced.