Can mRNA Treat Diseases, Too?

Second, the FDA has yet to give the green light to any of these treatments.

In addition, some early trials of mRNA therapies suffered significant stumbling blocks on the way to market approval.

In January, CureVac reported disappointing results in a clinical trial of its new mRNA drug for prostate cancer. The company’s drug CV9014 did not increase survival rates in men with metastatic prostate cancer or halt disease progression, the two main goals of the study.

CureVac founder Ingmar Hoerr, PhD, called the results a temporary setback, noting that CV9014 has been shown to be safe and that preclinical tests suggest it may prove effective if used with others. immunotherapy drugs called checkpoint inhibitors. These drugs, such as Keytruda from Merck, Opdivo from Bristol-Myers Squibb and Tecentriq from Roche, were not on the market at the start of study CV9014.

“We are already planning with our partner, Boehringer Ingelheim, to start clinical trials of mRNA in combination with checkpoint inhibitors,” Hoerr told European publication Labiotech.

The two companies are also teaming up on another potential mRNA vaccine for lung cancer.

But the flip side of CureVac, which was backed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and German entrepreneur Dietmar Hopp, among others, is a reminder that mRNA faces significant hurdles as a therapy.

This is especially true when it comes to creating new treatments for the thousands of different types of cancer, each with their own challenges.

Maurie Markman, MD, says mRNA therapy shows promise. But he calls for caution as well as the optimism generated by the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines.

“Treating cancer is a different world than preventing cancer through innovation,” notes Markman, president of medicine and science at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

“Unfortunately, we’re wrapped up in simple terms like RNA, DNA, and vaccines, and we’re like, ‘Well, if we can treat a bunch of diseases, including viruses, and we’re successful in that domain, can’t we take the same technology, the same strategy and work on another disease? And the answer is: we absolutely should be looking, but assuming we are looking at like-for-like is problematic.

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Jothi Venkat

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