Sounds like science fiction, but it's not: by 2030 we could have vaccines to fight cancer and heart disease. Thanks to the boost given by the pandemic of Covid-19 vaccine research has made great strides, and the pharmaceutical company Modern she is certain that the results will be seen in a few years.
mRNA technology: the secret behind a loud revolution
The key to everything is mRNA technology, which has made it possible to develop the Covid vaccine in record time. This technology teaches cells how to produce a protein that stimulates our body's immune response against disease. Dr. Paul Burton, medical director of Moderna, is convinced that mRNA vaccines could be used to treat "all types of pathologies" very soon.
As long as they do it with certain safety profiles, I add. Cancer and heart disease claim more lives than Covid every year, but I wouldn't authorize "record times" and "emergency procedures" because the risks of adverse effects must be carefully weighed, and even a very subtle problem can translate into thousands of deaths.
Cancer vaccines: the current situation
Moderna has been working on cancer vaccines that target different types of tumors for a while. The principle is simple: the vaccine teaches the immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells, without harming healthy ones. To do this, proteins found only on the surface of cancer cells are identified and instructions are created in mRNA to teach the body how to make them. In this way, the immune system learns to recognize and fight the tumor.
With this modus agendi, mRNA technology could also revolutionize the treatment of other diseases. For example, the same Modern is already testing a very promising vaccine against the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Pfizer, another pharmaceutical giant, is also experimenting with an mRNA vaccine against the flu and aims to extend it to other infectious diseases, such as shingles.
Fewer weapons, more research
Pandemics are as much a threat, if not greater than military ones, but investments in health "in times of truce" are still insufficient compared to those destined for defence.
If we want to give a decisive blow to some of the major causes of death, says Prof. Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, investments need to be concentrated here. Not on weapons.
If we do, we could be witnessing a real revolution in medicine. Personalized cancer vaccines, therapies for rare diseases and prevention of many other diseases could become reality by the end of the decade.
A scenario that would save millions of lives and radically change the way we deal with disease.