Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer affecting a large percentage of people worldwide. Now, scientists at USA give a breath of hope in the treatment of the disease, announcing another important step of medicine science.
It is a melanoma vaccine that protects against even the advanced form of the disease for about 4 years after vaccination. The vaccine with the name NeoVax targets specific proteins in a patient's cancer cells and boosts the immune system system to prevent the proliferation of cancer cells and the recurrence of the disease.
The researchers, led by oncologist Kathryn Wu of the Dana-Farber Institute for Cancer in Boston and Harvard University School of Medicine, published the paper in a medical journal. «Nature Medicine», tested the vaccine at eight patients who had undergone advanced melanoma removal surgery and were considered at high risk for recurrence of their cancer. The eight patients received the vaccine about four months after surgery.
Neovax - already evaluated in clinics tests for cancers other than melanoma, such as kidney cancer - contains a genetic DNA sequence from the cancer patient's tumor, which is then used to trigger an immune response to any melanoma cell, "training" T cells to recognize cancer and destroy it, without affecting healthy cells.
Dr. Wu said scientists have discovered that the initial targeted immune response expands over time to provide patients with ongoing protection against the disease. He also clarified that, unlike flu or vaccines COVID-19:, Neovax does not prevent the development of melanoma, but prevents the recurrence of cancer in those who have surgically removed the melanoma.
The cancer vaccine is a type of immunotherapy individualized for each patient, as it is based on the genetic material of his own cancer.
Four years after vaccination, all eight vaccinated patients are still alive, with six of them showing no signs of active cancer. They showed only mild side effects, such as fatigue and flu-like symptoms.
It is worth noting that due to the small number of patients in whom the vaccine has been tested, larger trials will have to follow, which will include a control group for comparison purposes and which will allow its effectiveness to be accurately ascertained.
However, given the first signs, scientists are optimistic that the vaccine will help treat cancer, either alone or in combination with other anti-cancer immunotherapies.
The personalized vaccines for cancer is one of the most promising ways to fight cancer that kills around 10 million lives each year worldwide. A "cure" for all cancers probably does not exist, as each cancer is a separate "cocktail" of genetic or environmental factors, presenting different molecules in which some treatments may be effective and some may not. Individual therapies or vaccines, which are specifically designed for each patient or specific type of cancer, are probably the best way to fight it.