A new vaccine that could be an innovative tool against cancer has shown promising results, according to a preliminary study released last month. The analysis was carried out with few participants and therefore still requires more data. What stands out in the method is the use of the patient’s own DNA in the formulation of the treatment. Below, understand the main questions on the subject.
How promising were the results obtained by the cancer vaccine?
Oncologist Thiago Bueno, deputy leader of the Head and Neck Tumor Reference Center at the ACCamargo Cancer Center, classifies the data as promising, but remains cautious. “These are early results, but promising. We are excited about these early results, although we need to keep our feet on the ground and be cautious. We will need to look at the long-term data and analyze more patients to confirm that it is a technology that is here to stay in our arsenal in the treatment against cancer”, says the specialist.
William Nassib William Júnior, medical director of the Oncology and Hematology Center at BP – Beneficência Portuguesa, adopts a similar reasoning. “This study adds to our knowledge by showing that the immune system was able to be trained to recognize molecules introduced as a treatment. However, we do not know what the long-term benefits are. The data are preliminary. They are pointing in the right direction. correct, but we need more patients and longer follow-up to be sure that this very promising strategy can become a new standard treatment”, he says.
What is the differential of the treatment disclosed now?
For Bueno, the great advance of the study carried out in England is the personalization of treatment. “Each head and neck tumor is unique. Personalization opens a new perspective of cancer treatment. We still don’t have immune response induction technologies in such a personalized way, as a treatment for each patient”, he explains.
Immunotherapy, the type of treatment included in the English study, represents one of the most recent innovations in the treatment of the metastatic disease of head and neck cancer. The therapy stimulates the patient’s own immune system to control the tumor. These are medications injected into the patient’s bloodstream that can produce good results according to the patient’s response.
William explains that the hospital is currently studying the combination of immunotherapy with chemotherapy or radiotherapy to enhance the beneficial effect of the two medications. Another line of research combines chemotherapy and immunotherapy to eliminate cancer of the larynx (throat and vocal cord) without the need for surgery.
What are the challenges for the development of the technique?
Experts say vaccines could represent the future of cancer treatment, harnessing the natural power of the immune system. The new approaches include preventive and therapeutic immunizations capable of differentiating tumor cells from normal ones. But there are still major challenges for the creation and production of cancer vaccines.
One of them is the genetic variability between tumors, even from the same primary site, that is, the place of origin of the cancer, as explained by Thiago Bueno. “For this reason, a personalized vaccine for each tumor individually could overcome this barrier”, he exemplifies.
Other challenges involve the actual identification of abnormal cells. For a vaccine to be created, it is necessary to find a molecule that is foreign to the organism. “A second difficulty is finding the altered molecules against which the immune system can develop a robust response to eliminate them”, evaluates William Nassib William Junior