The individualized mRNA cancer vaccine from BioNTech has moved to Phase 2 trials, with a patient from the USA set to receive a dose in the hopes it will prevent recurrence of the stage three colon cancer that he recently survived. Omar Rodriguez, 47 from Texas, will be among the first to receive BioNTech’s patient-specific cancer antigen therapy that targets up to 20 mutations of colorectal cancer – the second deadliest cancer worldwide. It has shown promise in prior Phase 1 trials, inducing an immune cell response – according to an NBC News report.
The vaccine utilizes similar technology to the widely successful COVID-19 vaccine, but this time teaches the immune system to fend off cancer growths, instead of viruses. Taking a sample of the patient’s tumor, the vaccine is then developed to target the mutation profile of that specific cancer, training the immune system to target proteins on the surface of cancerous cells.
The process takes around six weeks to develop, and participants will then receive regular doses over the four-year trial period – starting with one shot a week for six weeks, then biweekly shots, and finally a shot every few weeks. Participants involved will be colorectal cancer patients with a high risk of recurrence, who have had their tumor surgically removed or undergone chemotherapy. A significant number – 30 to 40 percent – of these people would usually see their cancer return after two to three years, but the vaccine hopes to put a stop to that. The trial, which has been initiated in the United States, Germany, Spain, and Belgium, plans to enroll about 200 patients.
“This trial is an important milestone in our efforts to bringing individualized immunotherapies to patients,” said Özlem Türeci, M.D., Co-founder and Chief Medical Officer of BioNTech, in a statement.
“Many cancers progress in such a way that the patient initially appears tumor-free after surgery, but after some time tumor foci that were initially invisible grow and form metastases. In this clinical trial in patients with colorectal cancer, we aim to identify high-risk patients with a blood test and investigate whether an individualized mRNA vaccine can prevent such relapses.”