Summary: Early success with an mRNA vaccine for pancreatic cancer points to the emerging importance of precision medicine in extending length of quality life that we enjoy. Precision medicine is one of the categories of personalised medicine recognising that patients are unique, they have different physical, biological and social circumstances and may respond differently to different treatment options.
Why this is important: Whilst there are variations between countries, the world's population is growing and ageing leading to increasing healthcare costs. From an investment perspective, personalised medicine is forecast to be a $1 trillion market by 2028. However developments should result in more effective treatments and preventative measures that increase the overall health of the population with its costs offset by reduced health / social care costs and increased quality of life and productivity.
The big theme: The ongoing survival of the human species is one of the ultimate sustainability themes. Understanding the broad spectrum of influences on human ageing and well-being can help us understand areas for investment as well as individual choices that we can make.
Summary of a study published in Nature:
A small clinical trial of a personalised mRNA-based vaccine against pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), which accounts for over 90% of pancreatic cancer cases, has demonstrated a strong tumour-specific T-cell response in half of the trial participants, according to results published in Nature. In other words, having been vaccinated, the patient's own immune system identified the cancer as a threat and attacked it. The research, led by Dr Vinod Balachandran from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, will now progress to a larger clinical trial. The team used BioNTech, which produced one of the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines, to identify proteins that could trigger an immune response and created a customised mRNA vaccine for each patient, which targeted up to 20 neoantigens (proteins that can be effectively targeted by the immune system).
Pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly cancers with a survival rate of just 12% that has remained largely unchanged for more than 50 years. It is the 7th leading cause of cancer death globally. Chemotherapy and radiation are not as effective as they are in other cancers with surgery being the main treatment option. Even after surgery, nearly 90% of patients have a recurrence of the disease within 7-9 months. The results from this trial provide some hope.