We’re all familiar with mRNA vaccines for their lifesaving efficacy as Covid-19 vaccines, but at the University of Arizona Cancer Center, the vaccines are playing a different role. Rather than working as a preventative measure, they’re being used as a therapeutic measure for patients with colorectal, head, and neck cancers.
Researchers essentially use mRNA technology to create vaccines that inform the body that a cancerous tumor is dangerous and tell the immune system to fight it. They specifically target proteins that appear on the surface of certain tumors. These vaccines can be personalized with tissue from a patient’s own tumor for maximum efficacy.
“Personalized cancer vaccines wake up specialized killer T cells that recognize abnormal cells and trigger them to kill the cells that are cancer,” says Julie E. Bauman, deputy director of the University of Arizona Cancer Center. “It’s a matter of using our own immune system as the army to eliminate cancer.”