Vaccine passport: Virologist reveals ‘limitation’ of Covid pass
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The results showed better survival rates than a different kind of therapy designed to turn a person’s immune system against their cancer, with the new vaccine shrinking tumours in experiments on mice. Now a human trial is on the way, with a planned 80 patients involved. All patients have the same type of cancer, known as non-small cell lung cancer. But the team said that the technology could be used to treat a range of cancers in the future. The technology used in this vaccine was central to the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid jab, referred to as “viral vector”.
Viral vector technology uses a harmless virus to transport a piece of genetic material into a person’s cells.
In this vaccine, the genetic code will then prompt the body to respond to MAGE proteins, which are molecules on the surface of cancer cells.
The purpose of this is to strengthen the body’s defences in order to attack the cancer cells.
This is an aspect of the immune system called T cells.
In the trials on the mice, the boost to T cells allowed another form of treatment, anti-PD immunotherapy, to kill cancer cells in the mice.
Other forms of cancer treatment usually don’t produce a lot of anti-tumour T cells in humans, but the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is designed to do that and that is what could make it so special.
Like the coronavirus vaccine, this cancer jab is also meant to be given as two jabs, and one of them uses the same virus as Oxford’s Covid jab.
Professor Adrian Hill, director of the Jenner Institute at the university, said: “This new vaccine platform has the potential to revolutionise cancer treatment.”
He also said that the upcoming trial follows an Oxford trial of a similar vaccine in prostate cancer patients that is also showing promising results.
Benoit Van den Eynde, professor of tumour immunology at the University of Oxford, added: “We knew that MAGE-type proteins act like red flags on the surface of cancer cells to attract immune cells that destroy tumours.
“MAGE proteins have an advantage over other cancer antigens since they are present on a wide range of tumour types.
“This broadens the potential benefit of this approach to people with many different types of cancer.
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“Importantly for target specificity, MAGE-type antigens are not present on the surface of normal tissues, which reduces the risk of side effects caused by the immune system attacking healthy cells.”
The study is published in the Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer.
It was carried out by Prof Van den Eynde’s group at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, in collaboration with co-authors Prof Hill and Dr Irina Redchenko at the Jenner Institute.
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