Bobby Fentress discovered about messenger RNA months before the rest of the world.
Fentress, 68, was an early participant in a clinical trial intended to check if or not a vaccine created with the exact same technology used to prevent COVID-19 could boost the immune system sufficient to seek out and destroy cells that were senile.
Firms like Moderna and Pfizer’s partner BioNTech, whose names are familiar from COVID-19 vaccines, are now utilizing mRNA to spur cancer sufferers’ bodies to create vaccines that will — hopefully — prevent recurrences and treatments designed to fight off advanced tumors.
Should they prove effective, which won’t be known for another couple of years, they could be added to the arsenal of immune therapies made to get the body to fight its tumors.
“We feel great about registering patients on such trials and are hopeful that ultimately they can demonstrate improved outcomes,” said Dr. Ryan Sullivan, a melanoma expert at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Sullivan doesn’t expect mRNA for a miracle.
“This is not the response,” he said. “But, hopefully, it is a part of the response.”
Doctors are staying cautious because cancer vaccine development”was littered with vaccines which have not hit the mark,” explained Dr. Stephen Hahn, who had a career within an oncologist before running the Food and Drug Administration out of 2019 until early this year.
He said he is more optimistic this time because of how much scientists have learned about the role the immune system plays in cancer.
“This gives us an edge to maybe finally reach the place where we will need to be,” said Hahn, who recently took an article using a venture capital company, Flagship Pioneering. “That could be only a remarkable step for every one of us.”
“My expectation is that if we’re successful, we will be able to move to more tumor types in which checkpoints haven’t been as successful,” said Meredith McKean, Fentress’ oncologist in Sarah Cannon Research Institute at Nashville.