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mRNA Vaccine

mRNA Vaccine News

  • Patients on immunotherapy drug Keytruda for advanced melanoma were less likely to die or have the cancer recur, if they used the vaccine (mRNA-4157/V940).
  • Trial: The trial involving 157 patients showed a 44% reduction in the risk of dying of cancer or having the cancer progress.
    • This was the first randomised-trial testing of an mRNA therapeutic in cancer patients and it has shown higher benefits compared with Keytruda alone.
  • Side-effects: Drug-related side effects occurred in 14.4% of patients who received the combination treatment compared with 10% with Keytruda alone.
  • Cost: Since it is a personalised cancer vaccine, which is tailor-made for every patient, it is expected to be very expensive to make.


  • Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops in the cells (melanocytes) that produce melanin.
  • Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight or artificial sources increases risk of developing melanoma.


Working of the mRNA Vaccines

  • Principle: The vaccine uses the same messenger-RNA technology that was used to produce the COVID vaccine. It instructs the body’s immune system to seek and destroy cancerous cells.
  • mRNA molecules are delivered to the body, which then instructs cells that take up the vaccine to produce proteins that may stimulate an immune response.
    • The immune response is directed against those produced proteins when they are present in intact viruses or tumour cells.

Developing mRNA Vaccine for Treating Cancer

  • The personalised cancer vaccine works in collaboration with Merck’s Keytruda, to disable a protein called programmed death 1 (PD-1) that helps tumours to evade the immune system.
  • To develop the vaccine, researchers obtained samples of patients’ tumours and healthy tissue. They decoded the genetic sequence and isolated mutant proteins associated only with the cancer.
  • The information was utilised to design a tailor-made cancer vaccine. When the vaccine was injected into the body, the patient’s cells produced perfect copies of the mutations for the immune system to recognise and destroy.
  • Having been exposed to the mutations without the virus/cancerous cells, the body learns to fight off the infection.


Advantages and Disadvantages of mRNA Vaccine Technology


  • The mRNA offers strong safety advantages as it harbours only the elements directly required for expression of the encoded protein.
  • Compared to viral-vectored vaccines, mRNA is non-infectious and poses no concern for DNA integration.
  • The development is sequence-independent, making it highly adaptable to different pathogens


  • Since the process involves use of mRNA protein and platform, the vaccines are costly to manufacture.
  • Anaphylaxis and antibody-dependent enhancements comprise the side-effects of the mRNA vaccine.
  • Limited immunogenity compared to other vaccines.


Alternative Cancer Treatment Technology

CAR-T Treatment:

  • Scientists extract immune systems cells, engineer them to target a specific cancer and insert them back in the body to kill cancer cells.

Bi specific Antibodies:

  • Bi specific antibodies attach to immune system cells with one arm and cancer cells with the other. This brings powerful immune system killer cells right next to the cancer cells.


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