Is MRNA Vaccine The Future Of Cancer Treatment?

Molly Cassidy, a 38-year-old mother of a 3-year-old son was diagnosed with severe head and neck cancer in February 2019 while she was preparing to clear her bar exam in Arizona. Even after removing a part of her tongue along with 35 lymph nodes and going through 35 chemotherapy sessions, she found out only ten days later that the bump on her collarbone had reappeared. She had given up hope and was bracing for the worst.

"By that point, I was really out of options because the other treatments hadn't worked. In the summer of 2019, I was told my cancer was very severe and to get my affairs in order. I even planned my funeral," said Cassidy to National Geographic.

After learning from the same doctors about the University of Arizona Cancer Center mRNA treatment trials, she signed up believing that there was nothing to lose. Over the course of 27 weeks, Cassidy received nine doses of mRNA vaccines and Pembrolizumab, an immunotherapy drug. When her treatment concluded in October 2020, Cassidy's CT scan report came clean and she had no traces of cancer in her body.

While mRNA treatment is a relatively new name to the populace, largely popularised after Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech came up with Covid-19 vaccines with the help of this technology, it has been making steady progress under the radar for a long time.

In this process, messenger Rhiboneucleic acids, created in the lab can be injected inside the body of an individual to order the body to make a certain kind of protein in the body for treating a certain problem. Since our body can make any kind of complex protein, the resulting chemical will be able to reap positive results against complicated diseases.

According to Daniel Anderson, a leader on nanotherapeutics and biomaterials at MIT and a member of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, "It's not a new idea: What COVID has shown us is that mRNA vaccines can be an efficacious and safe technology for millions of people."

According to Nat Geo, the mRNA-based vaccines of different forms of cancers like melanoma, lung cancers, gastrointestinal cancers, and many other cancers are entering advanced stages of trial.

Van Morris, a physician and an assistant professor of gastrointestinal medical oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, said that "One of the beauties of this technology is it can be used in people agnostic to their cancer type—it doesn't matter if it's breast cancer or lung cancer as long as you can identify its mutations. One of the exciting things is the adaptability of the technology based on a given cancer and the underlying biology of that cancer."

While there is a long way to go for this treatment to be taken as the routine method for treating cancer, the efficacy, and speed in which the covid-19 vaccines were prepared, have certainly made the doctors and researchers believe in the possibilities laying ahead.

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