According to media reports Thursday, a universal cancer vaccine is on the horizon after scientists discovered how to rewire immune cells to fight any type of disease.

The potential new Cancer vaccine breakthrough involves injecting tiny particles of genetic code into the body which travel to the immune cells and teach them to recognise specific cancers.

Although scientists have shown previously that is it is possible to engineer immune cells outside the body so they can spot cancer it is the first time it has happened inside cells.

And because the genetic code could be programmed for any cancer, it means Cancer vaccine breakthrough could be universal. All doctors would need is the genetic profile of the tumour to make a custom-made vaccine which as well as fighting the disease, would prevent it ever returning

Test in mice showed that the vaccine triggered a strong immune response while trials in three skin cancer patients demonstrated that the treatment could be tolerated.

“The vaccines are fast and inexpensive to produce, and virtually any tumour antigen can be encoded by RNA,” said lead author Prof Ugur Sahin, managing director of Translational Oncology at the University Medical Centre of the Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany.

Cancer vaccine breakthrough

Cancer vaccine breakthrough

“The approach introduced here may be regarded as a universally applicable novel vaccine class for cancer immunotherapy.”

Dr Helen Rippon, chief executive of Worldwide Cancer Research, said “We know the immune system has great potential to be manipulated and reactivated to fight cancer cells, that’s why we’ve been funding research into this for 15 years.

“These are exciting and novel results, showing the promise of an RNA nanoparticle vaccine to do just that.”

She described the immune response in the three patients as “positive” and noted that advanced skin cancer was “a notoriously difficult cancer to treat”.

“However, more research is needed in a larger number of people with different cancer types and over longer periods of time before we could say we have discovered a ‘universal cancer vaccine’. But this research is a very positive step forwards towards this global goal,” she said

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