The Technology Behind the COVID-19 Vaccines May Soon Be Used to Treat Mesothelioma

The rapid development of the COVID-19 vaccines has introduced the world to messenger RNA, and researchers are indicating that the technology may soon be used to treat individual patients’ mesothelioma and other cancers. Clinical trials have already begun, investigating whether vaccines based on the same science can teach the immune system to prevent recurrences and help fight off advanced tumors.

mRNA Vaccines Represent Personalized Medicine’s Next Tool Against Mesothelioma

The mRNA vaccines developed to fight COVID relied on teaching the body’s immune system to attack anything with the same protein found on the virus’ surface, and a similar application can be developed based on individual mesothelioma patients’ tumor cells. Clinical trials are currently testing the technology on melanoma and kidney cancer patients, with hopes that success in those particular types of tumors will carry over to others. 

Researchers explain that one of the challenges of treating mesothelioma and other cancers is that the body does not attack their cells in the same way that it does other illnesses. Cancer drugs bring some success, but also attack healthy cells, leading to the adverse side effects seen with chemotherapy. By taking cells directly from a malignant tumor and analyzing it with a computer, small differences between the cancer cells and normal cells can be identified and an mRNA created that triggers the body to make the unique proteins found within the tumors.  When injected as a vaccine, the proteins trigger an attack from the immune system that initially manifests as a response to the vaccine and then later to the return of the cancer. 

Individualized Cancer Vaccine Development Would Follow Mesothelioma Surgery

According to the researchers, the ideal application of the personalized mesothelioma vaccines would be timed within a few weeks of a tumor having been removed through surgery. The cells from the tumor would be fed into the computer for creation of the patient’s unique mRNA vaccine and after it is developed the vaccine would be administered to generate new immune responders within the body.  The mRNA vaccine would create an immune response to any return of the tumors, and would likely be given in combination with immunotherapy.  The clinical trials are in their earliest days, with about 100 patients currently enrolled. 

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma and you would like information on the state-of-the-art treatments that are currently available, the Patient Advocates at can help. Contact us today at 1-800-692-8608.

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer is the head writer of our news blog. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Terri believes that knowledge is power and she is committed to sharing news about the impact of mesothelioma, the latest research and medical breakthroughs, and victims’ stories.

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