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medical breakthroughs

Researchers hopeful vaccines for cancer, heart disease will be ready by 2030

Studies into vaccinations for cancer and cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases are showing "tremendous promise," with the success of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines accelerating this technology.

As The Guardian explains, "therapies based on mRNA work by teaching cells how to make a protein that triggers the body's immune response against disease." An mRNA-based cancer vaccine, for example, would "alert the immune system to a cancer that is already growing in a patient's body, so it can attack and destroy it, without destroying healthy cells."

Dr. Paul Burton, chief medical officer of Moderna, told The Guardian he thinks his pharmaceutical company will offer treatments for "all sorts of disease areas" by 2030, and is developing cancer vaccines targeting multiple types of tumors. By offering personalized cancer vaccines, it will "save many hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of lives," Burton said.

In late 2022, Moderna announced a phase two clinical trial found the company's personalized mRNA cancer vaccine combined with Merck's immunotherapy drug Keytruda reduced the recurrence of melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, by 44 percent. In February, the Food and Drug Administration gave this combination a Breakthrough Therapy Designation, which expedites the development and review of drugs meant to treat life-threatening conditions.

Vaccine studies now underway are showing "tremendous promise," Burton said, and he estimates that 10 years from now, "we will be approaching a world where you truly can identify the genetic cause of a disease and, with relative simplicity, go and edit that out and repair it using mRNA-based technology."