A husband and wife team of scientists have confirmed they hope a cancer vaccine will be available by 2030.
Professors Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci co-founded BioNTech, a German company exploring new technology to treat cancer, in 2008.
Speaking about their work on the BBC on Sunday (16 October), the pair shared an incredibly promising insight into new cancer treatments they’re currently working on:
Sahin and Tureci’s company is hoping to treat cancer with technology involving messenger RNA (mRNA) and they are hopeful the likes of bowel cancer, melanoma and other tumour types can be combated with their treatments.
BioNTech currently has several trials in progress, one of which sees patients being given a personalised cancer vaccine to encourage their immune system to attack the disease.
In short, the mRNA technology used at BioNTech works by sending instructions to cells to make them produce an antigen or protein.
When it comes to Covid treatment, this antigen forms part of the spike protein of the virus, but in cancer treatment, it would be a marker on tumour cells’ surface.
Sahin and Tureci are hopeful this will teach the immune system to recognise and target cancerous cells for destruction.
Appearing on BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, Prof Tureci said: “mRNA acts as a blueprint and allows you to tell the body to produce the drug or the vaccine… and when you use mRNA as a vaccine, the mRNA is a blueprint for the 'wanted poster' of the enemy - in this case cancer antigens which distinguish cancer cells from normal cells."
Tureci, who is BioNTech's chief medical officer, continued: "Every step, every patient we treat in our cancer trials helps us to find out more about what we are against and how to address that.
"As scientists, we are always hesitant to say we will have a cure for cancer. We have a number of breakthroughs and we will continue to work on them."
Thanks to Covid, using the power of mRNA to produce vaccines has now been proven, however, the BBC notes that ‘caution is needed’.
The broadcaster pointed out that lots of cancer trials end in failure and it could be several years before we know for sure whether BioNTech's treatments for bowel cancer, melanoma and other tumour types actually live up to the hype.