Cancer vaccine: how research against Covid-19 is rekindling hope

After all, what were the researchers initially working on when they found Covid vaccines? Cancer! So, of course, vaccination against the disease that kills more than 150,000 French people every year will not be announced at the Asco World Congress this Friday, but it is in the minds of all researchers in the country. “Yes, hope is being reborn with RNA messenger technology. (Editor’s note: Pfizer and Moderna serums) “, – confirms Iris Pauporte, researcher of the League Against Cancer.

“This is the future, perhaps the innovation of the future, as targeted therapy or immunotherapy were a few years ago,” says oncologist and pulmonologist Nicolas Girard. Vaccine technology has taken a big leap forward with Covid, and it will be beneficial. “

Curative, not preventive

“Cancer vaccination” is an ambitious and promising formula. “But beware of confusion. We should not imagine a vaccine that could be administered to the entire population in order not to develop the disease, ”immediately warns oncoimmunology specialist Fathia Mami-Chuaib, who has been working on this issue for twenty years. his laboratories at Inserm and the Gustav-Russi Institute. “Research is really being done on a therapeutic vaccine to prevent relapse,” adds Iris Pauporte. In no case can it be prophylactic or universal, aimed at all tumors at once. It is clear that the task is not to find a “miracle injection”, but to replenish the current therapeutic arsenal. Especially for patients whose disease prevents the first treatment, which is contraindicated for him.

“We would like to create an individualized vaccine, specific for each patient, that will increase their immune response,” sums up Fathia Mami-Chuaib, who works every day to develop this idea, especially with regard to lung cancer. But others may be “suitable”: kidney, prostate, breast, certain sarcomas … The main thing, as in the case of coronavirus, is to know the goal to be achieved. This is being tracked using tumor sequencing, which has expanded in recent years. “Then, thanks to messenger RNA, we can imagine vaccination not against the Covid protein, but against the cancer protein,” Nicolas Girard synthesizes. The fragile messenger can be delivered to the right place – that is, into the cell – through a nanoparticle capsule. Like a virus.

“After few years”

When? The speed of their development in a pandemic opens up all the appetites. But, of course, it will take more patience. Research is still in its infancy, although around thirty trials have begun worldwide. In March, Ozlem Tureci, medical director of BioNTech, the lab that developed the first Covid vaccine with Pfizer’s help, said she was working on developing several cancer treatments that she plans to bring to the public “here”. some years. “

At the Curie Institute, Professor Girard hopes that laboratory work will be implemented in clinical trials “in two to three years.” “Hopefully … explorer Fathia Mami-Schauib gets carried away. We will have to start because unfortunately in France we are too often late, unlike the US or China. We are still trying to raise funds. To race and eradicate tumors, you have to jump on the bandwagon. “Moreover, as she assures us, this is a vaccine:” I believe in it. “

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