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Scientists optimistic about cancer cure vaccine, Alzheimer’s treatment

Jun 26, 2023


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Scientists are optimistic about the development of vaccines that may cure certain types of cancer within the next five years. Additionally, a groundbreaking Alzheimer’s drug could receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as early as next month. These medical advancements offer hope in the ongoing battle against some of the world’s most devastating diseases.

Experimental trials conducted this year have reported promising results in using vaccines to shrink tumors and prevent cancer recurrence, particularly for deadly skin cancer melanoma and pancreatic cancer. Scientists also believe that breast cancer and lung cancer may be effectively treated with vaccines in the near future.

“They’re not really associated with any side effects, so they’re super well tolerated,” Dr. Nora Disis of the UW Medicine’s Cancer Vaccine Institute said. “They’re not chemotherapy, and patients do very well. You can get a short course of vaccines and they last a lifetime.”

These newer cancer vaccines utilize mRNA technology, initially developed for cancer treatment but gaining recognition through its application in COVID-19 vaccines. Despite initial vaccine hesitancy, scientists familiar with the trials have reported successful outcomes thus far, with Dr. Steve Lipkin, a medical geneticist at New York’s Weill Cornell Medicine, hypothesizing that “vaccines are probably the next big thing” in the quest to reduce cancer deaths.

“We’re getting something to work. Now we need to get it to work better,” said Dr. James Gulley, who helps lead a center at the National Cancer Institute that develops immune therapies.

In parallel to these cancer research efforts, the FDA is expected to grant approval to a pioneering drug designed to slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Known as Leqembi, this drug targets a specific substance found in the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s. If granted full approval, over one million Medicare patients in the early stages of the disease could gain access to this potentially life-changing medication.

“Just the idea that they could gain more time is profoundly important and exciting,” Robert Egge, chief public policy officer for the Alzheimer’s Association, said. “That’s why patients [and] their families have been speaking up so loudly for the need for Medicare coverage.”

Currently, one in nine Americans aged 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s, a disease that affects over 6 million individuals in the United States.

Meanwhile, cancer diagnosis rates remain high, with men having a one in two chance and women having a one in three chance of being diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime.

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