Moderna Shares Ambitious Plans for mRNA Cancer Vaccine

It could be a massive breakthrough

The advances in technology from developing COVID vaccines could influence other types of medicine.
Michael Matthey/picture alliance via Getty Images

In the early days of the pandemic, as scientists worked to develop vaccines to limit the spread and effects of COVID-19, one thread that emerged from coverage involved mRNA vaccines. A CNBC article from 2021 described mRNA vaccines as “virtually programable” — something that applies to both the speed with which a COVID-19 vaccine was developed and to the other conditions that mRNA vaccines could be used to treat.

COVID-19 is just the beginning, according to one prominent figure working to develop new vaccines. In an interview with Linda Geddes of The Guardian, Moderna Chief Medical Officer Paul Burton shared more specifics about the company’s plans going forward — including plans for an mRNA vaccine to treat cancer.

“I think we will be able to offer personalised cancer vaccines against multiple different tumour types to people around the world,” Burton told The Guardian.

Burton went on to offer specifics on Moderna’s mRNA vaccine plans. “It can be applied to all sorts of disease areas; we are in cancer, infectious disease, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases, rare disease,” he said. “We have studies in all of those areas and they have all shown tremendous promise.” According to what Burton told The Guardian, at least some of these could be in place by the end of the decade.

Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine Was Partially Funded by Dolly Parton
The vaccine has proven to be 94.5 percent effective in early data

Predicting the future is an imprecise science, but the FDA did recently designate Moderna’s skin cancer treatment as a breakthrough therapy. Reading Burton’s comments does offer a sense of optimism for the future. Given that mRNA vaccines addressing cancer would require some customization, it’s not as clear what the cost or level of accessibility might be. But there are definite grounds for optimism here — and plenty of technology to watch.

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