In the fast-paced world of private oncology, doctors and researchers get to be at the forefront of seeing biotechnology solutions appearing that could provide hope to people with various types of cancer.
One of the most fascinating fields in this regard is the concept of cancer vaccines that can help either treat existing cancer or prevent it from developing in the way other vaccines help to prevent the spread of disease.
The mechanism they use is the same one that has been used since the smallpox vaccine; a vaccine trains the immune system to target specific antigen markers that match those seen on the surface of cancer cells.
There are a few methods for this, but the most promising recent technology involves the use of mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) which was used for many of the vaccines used to help immunise against Covid-19.
With the widespread rollout of mRNA vaccines proving successful against a virus, several researchers have started to work to see the capabilities of the technology and whether it could be used to create treatments for common cancer types or tailored vaccines to help fight specific tumours.
A recent trial of a cancer vaccine tailored towards specific cells found that people who had the injection alongside a course of the cancer medication Keytruda had a 44 per cent reduction in the risk of death or progression compared to just taking the medication.
This Phase IIb trial highlights the potential, although as with all breakthrough treatments, there is a lot of work and research that needs to be undertaken, but it proves that the concept works, is feasible and helps as a complement to existing treatment.
At present, the technology to personalise each vaccine is also very expensive, although the exact price was not named by Moderna and MSD, the companies who have worked together on this particular treatment.
More pharmaceutical companies are looking into their own cancer vaccines, which could mean that for some people, their cancer could be treated by a single injection in the future.