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Vaccines to Treat Cancer and Other Diseases May Be Ready Within the Decade

Treatment vaccines for many diseases, including cancer, may be available in as little as five years, according to the chief medical officer at Moderna, a pharmaceutical company that developed an mRNA vaccine to prevent COVID-19. “We will have that vaccine and it will be highly effective, and it will save many hundreds of thousands, if not millions of lives,” said cardiothoracic surgeon Paul Burton of Moderna in a Guardian story. By analyzing biopsied tissue for mutations that drive cancer growth and protein fragments on the surface of cancer cells that are not present on healthy cells, scientists would create a personalized mRNA vaccine that tells the body how to mount an immune response to kill the cancer cells without harming normal cells. “[The vaccines] can be applied to all sorts of disease areas; we are in cancer, infectious disease, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases, rare disease,” said Burton. “We have studies in all of those areas, and they have all shown tremendous promise.” An interim analysis of one study found that a Moderna mRNA vaccine was highly effective in treating respiratory syncytial virus, an infection of the lungs and respiratory tract.

Immunotherapies Offer Hope for Patients With Multiple Myeloma

Three immunotherapies approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the past two years have extended survival and led to better quality of life for many patients with advanced multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer that is incurable. “The recent approval of two CAR T’s and one bispecific antibody means more options for patients in need, many of whom had no treatment options left,” said hematologist-oncologist Samer Al Hadidi in an article in Healio. Al Hadidi is an associate member at the Myeloma Center of the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute in Little Rock, Arkansas. The two approved CAR T-cell therapies—Abecma (idecabtagene vicleucel) and Carvykti (ciltacabtagene autoleucel)—and the bispecific antibody—Tecvayli (teclistamab)—all target BCMA, an antigen found on the surface of multiple myeloma cells. The new treatments have generated hope that multiple myeloma might become a treatable chronic condition and perhaps one day be cured.

New AI Tool May Help Doctors Detect Lung Cancer Sooner

Researchers say that a new artificial intelligence (AI) tool could detect traces of lung cancer years earlier than current screening methods. In one study, the AI tool, called Sybil, accurately predicted whether a person would develop lung cancer in the upcoming year 86% to 94% of the time. Scientists at Mass General Cancer Center in Boston and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge developed Sybil. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults at risk for lung cancer get a low-dose CT scan every year to screen for the disease. The promise of AI is that it can detect traces of disease revealed on a CT scan that a radiologist might overlook. “The naked eye can’t see everything,” oncologist Lecia Sequist told NBC News. “The AI that we developed is looking at the scan in a completely different way than a human radiologist looks at it.” Sequist, who worked on the Sybil project, is program director of the Cancer Early Detection and Diagnostics Clinic at Mass General Cancer Center. Sybil is not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use outside clinical trials.