Scientists are on the cusp of commercializing the first personalized cancer vaccine. If it works as hoped, the vaccine, which triggers a person’s immune system to identify a tumor by its unique mutations, could effectively shut down many types of cancers.
The possibility of cancer vaccines began to develop in 2008 when geneticists first published the sequenced genome of a cancerous tumor cell.
From there, researchers began comparing the mutations in various tumor cells and found that most tumors contain mutations unique to only that tumor — the same mutations don’t show up in the cells of other tumors or in healthy cells.
Several companies are now working to create and test cancer vaccines containing copies of a specific tumor’s cell mutations, according to Gates. The idea is that the vaccine could compel a person’s immune system to find and destroy any cells containing the mutations found within their specific tumor.
Given that cancer kills nearly 600,000 people every year, customized cancer vaccines would be a breakthrough technology.
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