Scientists are optimistic about a vaccine to treat different types of cancers through the technology used to fight the coronavirus.
“We believe that a cure for cancer, or to change the lives of cancer patients, is within our reach,” said researcher Ozlem Tureci of German pharmaceutical company BioNTech in an interview with the BBC on Sunday.
Another German researcher, Ugur Sahin, believes the treatment could be available “before 2030”.
According to the experts, the vaccine uses messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) to stimulate patients’ immune systems to attack the disease. This is because mRNA sends a genetic sequence to cells to produce an antigen, causing the immune system to recognise and eliminate abnormal cells, which will prevent them from reproducing out of control.
Although mRNA cancer trials began before the emergence of COVID-19, it was during the pandemic that scientists tested this technology to prepare vaccines to combat the viral disease. “What we have developed over the decades for cancer vaccine development has been the tailwind for developing the COVID-19 vaccine, and now the COVID-19 vaccine and our experience in developing it gives back to our cancer work,” Tureci explained.
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The director said they have been hesitant to say they will have “a cure for cancer”, but said they have “a number of breakthroughs” and will continue “working on them”.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), cancer is the leading cause of death in the world, with almost 10 million deaths attributed to the disease in 2020. The agency stressed that the most common types of cancer are breast, lung, colon and rectum, and prostate.