After causing so much pain and death – Brazil alone has almost 600,000 – Covid-19 can leave a positive legacy for science and humanity. It’s the development of a cancer vaccine. The Oxford vaccine experiments, in partnership with Astrazeneca, could pave the way for the creation of an immunizing agent against cancer.
The first tests carried out in mice showed that the vaccine could increase the levels of cells that fight cancer, improving the effectiveness of the treatment against the disease.
The long-awaited vaccine uses the same technology to fight the coronavirus, called a non-replicating viral vector. This mechanism induces the immune system’s response and increases protection against disease. According to studies carried out so far, the vaccine has shown positive results when used in combination with immunotherapy, a technique that leads the patient’s own body to fight cancer cells.
Immunotherapy holds promise in the treatment of cancer, but it is not always indicated because it requires the patient to present the correct cells of the immune system – the CD8+ – that attack the tumor. It turns out that in cancer patients these cells are usually reduced precisely by the action of the tumor. And that would be the action of the vaccine, which would induce strong responses from specific cells of the body’s defense.
According to the University of Oxford, the next step in the research is to carry out a phase 1 and 2 clinical trial of the cancer vaccine in combination with immunotherapy. The initial study will be carried out with 80 patients with lung cancer and should be carried out later this year.
The oncologist physician Stephen Doral Stefani, from Rio Grande do Sul, says we can hope, but he is cautious. “We need to calibrate the expectation. This strategy can reduce the risk of some types of cancer. That’s good news, but it shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all solution for all types of cancer. It would be like the HPV vaccine that reduces cervical cancer”, he says.
Dr. Stephen Doral Stefani