A Universal Cancer Vaccine Might Be Closer Than You Think

Right now the odds are not much better than 50-50 that you, in particular, will have cancer at some point. And, aside from not smoking (especially) and generally trying to live healthy, there also isn’t a whole lot you can do to tweak those odds in any dramatic way. Even among smokers, obsessive sunbathers, and vegetable haters, cancer winds up being pretty random. The dice can be loaded (sometimes a lot), but they are still dice.

By Michael Byrne | MOTHERBOARD

There are so many cancers and so many things that can work in concert or independently to increase a person’s cancer risk—to say nothing of the sheer scope and scale of cancer as an epidemic—that the idea of a universal cancer vaccine seems pretty far-fetched. Hell, given the vast and increasingly effective ecology of cancer treatments, a vaccine doesn’t even seem fair (especially if you happen to be a pharmaceutical corporation pushing those often extremely expensive treatments).

Nonetheless, a universal cancer vaccine is something being actively pursued and it may prove to be attainable after all. In a paper published Wednesday in Nature, researchers from Johannes Gutenberg University describe the development of a potential vaccine based on the immune system’s natural responses to viral infection. In early experiments based on mouse tumor models and three human patients with advanced melanomas, the vaccine, which essentially consists of nanoscale poison darts with of RNA payloads, was able to induce specific anti-tumor immune responses.

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