The day when the two RNA-based anti-covid-19 vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, were authorized for use was an important moment for us all. Messenger RNA (mRNA) carries information for the construction of proteins in cells. A major obstacle to overcome in designing an RNA-based vaccine is the limitation is mRNA's extreme instability. mRNA tends to degrade quickly (unlike DNA, which is a nucleic acid consisting of a double-strand and is more stable).
The production of a vaccine consists of the ability to manufacture at least a small piece of virus that will trigger the immune response in the vaccinated person. However, this is a much more complex process when dealing with RNA.
Recently, a piece of encouraging news report announced the start of Phase 2 human test of an mRNA vaccine for cancer. The trial was initiated first on a patient with melanoma, a highly aggressive form of cancer, and the patient was vaccinated with a product from the company BioNTech.
Many forms of melanoma, in fact, have tumor cells that express 4 specific antigens NY-ESO-1, MAGE-A3, tyrosinase, and TPTE, which are targeted by the vaccine, making the method highly specific for these melanoma tumor cells.
Because many anti-cancer treatments have systemic effects, the specificity of mRNA vaccines might have considerably fewer side effects. This is the reason why the use of anti-cancer technologies based on the use of RNA has fascinated scientists for years.
The generation of an mRNA-based vaccine is again the proof that data-driven hypotheses, experimental approaches, and international collaborations between scientists are the basis for progress in medicine.
This article was first published in La Voce Di New York by Prof Antonio Giordano, MD, Ph.D., Founder & Director of Sbarro Health Research Organization (SHRO), here's the link.
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