Two days ago, the founder of a German biotech company said in an interview that their cancer vaccine could be available by 2030. This news has become a hot search, and many people are very excited about it: FinallyThere is hope that one injection will prevent cancer!
I know many people have this dream, but is it true?
Actually, everyone misunderstood. The cancer vaccine mentioned in this news is a “therapeutic vaccine”, not the “preventive vaccine” such as hepatitis B and polio that we took when we were children.
Vaccines, as many people understand them, are “preventive vaccines”: when healthy people are vaccinated, they can prevent a certain disease, mainly against disease-causing bacteria and viruses.
Are there any preventive vaccines for cancer? There are also. There are currently two types, the hepatitis B virus (HBV) vaccine that can prevent liver cancer (about 70% of liver cancers in China are related to hepatitis B virus), and the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine that can prevent cervical cancer (99% of cervical cancer and human papillomavirus-related).
But these two vaccines are strictly virus vaccines. They also protect against only a small subset of cancers. The idea that a single injection will prevent any cancer is a good idea, but it is not realistic.
Because one of the biggest features of vaccines is their specificity! A vaccine is often only useful against one pathogen.
A broad-spectrum cancer prevention vaccine is unrealistic, because cancer is not actually a disease, but a combination of many diseases. Everyone’s cancer is different.
The success of the vaccine uses the memory function of the human immune cells: just like the Saint Seiya cannot be knocked down twice by the same trick, people are usually not attacked by the same virus or Bacteria knocked down twice.
Many people have had chickenpox when they were young, and they all know that once they have chickenpox and the fever subsides, they will never get chickenpox again in their lifetime. why?
Because after a person is infected with the chickenpox virus for the first time, the immune system will not only successfully clear the virus, but also firmly remember the appearance of the virus. The next time there is any chickenpox The virus invades the body again, and the immune system responds quickly, killing it in the bud, so you will never get chickenpox again in your life. The process of getting chickenpox for the first time is the process of acquiring lifelong immunity to the chickenpox virus.
Of course, no one wants to be immune to all diseases. Not to mention suffering, some diseases are still fatal, and there is no second chance. So scientists invented vaccines.
Vaccines usually don’t cause disease, but they look nearly identical to the real pathogens, enough to elicit an immune response (so fever often occurs after vaccination), and also trigger immune memory, so wait until the real When the pathogen appears, the immune system quickly recognizes and clears it, just as if you had the disease.
There cannot be one vaccine that protects against all cancers, just as there is no one vaccine that protects against all bacterial/viral infections.
Vaccines to prevent cancer are so difficult, so what are the companies developing cancer vaccines doing?
What they’re doing are “therapeutic vaccines,” which are used to prevent cancer from developing and returning after it has developed. It is aimed at not healthy people, but cancer patients.
At present, almost all cancer vaccines in clinical trials are “therapeutic vaccines”, which can be divided into two categories, namely “tumor-specific antigen vaccines” , and “Tumor-Associated Antigen Vaccines”.
One of the more popular ones is called “tumor neoantigen vaccine”, a highly personalized tumor-specific antigen vaccine.
In 2017, two teams from the United States and Germany simultaneously published papers in the journal Nature, demonstrating the first clinical breakthrough in the clinical trial of a “personalized vaccine” for tumors: A group of high-risk skin cancer patients, after vaccination, the body’s specific immune response against cancer cells is greatly enhanced! Many people’s tumors never recur.
What are tumor neoantigens?
We all know that cancer cells are the product of genetic mutations.
In every human cell, DNA uses T, C, G, A letters (a full 3 billion pairs!) to spell out a perfect literary work: “Human Cell Life guide”.
This guide tells cells when to divide, when to migrate, and when to die. maintain the normal functioning of the human body.
But cancer cells are not honest. It modifies this guide by changing the order of T, C, G, A, causing it to divide when it shouldn’t and migrate when it shouldn’t. even immortality.
For example, part of the normal cell guide reads:
“Goose, goose, goose, curved neck to heaven song, white hair floating on green water, anthurium poking clear waves.”
Some cells are mutated to:
“Pineapple, pineapple, pineapple, curved neck to heaven song, white hair floating on green water, red palm plucking clear waves.”
“Pineapple” happens to have a powerful energy to promote cell growth, it is the so-called oncogenic driver mutation, this cell carrying the new guidelines, become cancer cells.
At this time, if the human immune system can detect that this guideline is wrong in time, the cancer cells will be killed. Unfortunately, for various reasons, the immune system often fails to recognize driver mutations.
Maybe because “pineapple” looks harmless, it was omitted. Cancer cells thus grow.
Neither. The mutation of cancer cells is usually not so precise, and it also randomly changes some seemingly insignificant words (DNA) when changing “goose” to “pineapple”.
For example, Zhang San’s cancer cells have become:
“Pineapple, Pineapple, Pineapple, Song to the Sky, WhiteboardFloating Green Water, red in the middlePick up the clear waves.”
Whether it is white or red, it has no effect on the growth of cancer cells, and is purely a by-product. But these seemingly innocuous mutations may be the key to curing cancer! Because there is no mahjong in the life guide of normal cells, immune cells know that if you see a mahjong tile, this cell is definitely not normal!
It was purely a coincidence that cancer cells mutated “hair” into “board” and “palm” into “zhong”, and actually spelled out “white board” and “red middle”!
This unexpectedly helps immune cells recognize cancer cells.
“white board” and “red center” are cancer-specific signals that help immune cells recognize cancer cells, called tumor neoantigens.
Picture from public image library
Because the neoantigens produced by each patient are different, some are “white board” and “red in the middle”, and some are “facai” and “yaoji”. Activating immune cells against the “white board” is ineffective against cancer cells carrying the “yao chicken” mutation. Therefore, “tumor neoantigen vaccines” need to be customized.
Currently, various “oncology therapeutic vaccines” are still being tested and are still a long way from the market.
In recent years, with the development of new crown vaccines, mRNA technology has been pushed to the forefront, showing some unique advantages. Many vaccine companies have used this technology in the research and development of cancer vaccines, and some Saw good early test results. If successful, it will cooperate with existing treatments to turn more and more cancers into chronic diseases and even achieve clinical cures.
Whether this time is 2030 or 2040, it is very worth looking forward to.
Salute to life!
*This article aims to popularize the science behind cancer and its treatment. It is not a drug promotional material, nor is it a recommendation for a treatment plan. For guidance on disease treatment plans, please go to a regular hospital for treatment.
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