Startup Tests Personalized Cancer Vaccine

Yet to conjure up a cure for cancer, researchers are relying mainly on radiation therapy and implant technology to treat patients. Dietitians are even promoting unusual superfoods such as avocados, whose husks can treat harmful diseases. However, a breakthrough by Moderna may soon see individualized vaccines on the market.

With the right combination of letters, Moderna says it can hijack a cell’s protein-making mechanisms to create a drug within the body. If it works, mRNA could have many applications: The company also has programs for infectious diseases, cardiovascular disorders and rare diseases.

Testing the vaccine on a single patient, the research has a lot to prove. Moderna’s current tester vial is a result of meticulous work arranging DNA based on target proteins. While it seems promising, there are still a lot of risks to consider.

“The tumor has all kinds of tricks to fight back,” said Greg Lizee, an associate professor at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center who specializes in melanoma. “Cancers can reduce targets on the surface or secrete nasty stuff that’s toxic for the immune system.”

To play it safe, Moderna is experimenting with patients who are already clear of tumors. Though the stakes are high, the research may be worth (literally) a shot.

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