The story of the man who made the world's first personalized cancer vaccine. It's his only hope

Music teacher Steve Young is among the first patients to receive the first personalized cancer vaccine and says it is his “best chance” of stopping the disease.

A man from Great Britain received a vaccine against cancer PHOTO Archive

The 52-year-old man was shocked to learn that a seemingly innocent bump on his head was actually a melanoma, notes the Daily Mail.

Recalling the shock of his diagnosis, the professor said he initially saw the disease as a death sentence.

I literally spent two weeks thinking about it that This is. My father died of emphysema when he was 57 and I really thought😮 to die younger than my father”he told.

Steve Young was eligible to participate in a selection process for a new experimental cancer treatment.

The vaccine, created to order

The new vaccine is custom-made and uses the specific genetic makeup of each person's tumor – giving them the best chance of a cure. It works by teaching the body to hunt down cancer cells and prevent the disease from returning.

The first results of the test – developed by pharmaceutical giants Moderna and MSD – show that it drastically reduced the survival chances of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Now, University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH) is leading the final phase of trials of the therapy, which scientists hope could also be used to stop lung, bladder and kidney cancer.

As soon as they mentioned this mRNA technology that was being used to be able to fight cancer, I said to myself “that sounds fascinating” and I still feel the same way. I'm very, very excited. This is my best chance to stop the cancer to spread”says Steve Young.

The dose, to be tested on about 1,100 patients worldwide, is an individualized neoantigen therapy sometimes called a cancer vaccine.

It is designed to trigger the immune system so that it can fight against the patient's specific type of cancer and tumor. Known as mRNA-4157 (V940), it targets tumor neoantigens, which are expressed by tumors and are individual to each patient.

These markers on the tumor can potentially be recognized by the immune system.

The doses carry coding for up to 34 neoantigens and activate an anti-tumor immune response based on the unique mutations of a patient's cancer.

Dr Heather Shaw, national lead researcher for the study, described it as straight “one of the most interesting things I've seen in a very long time.”

She said: “I think there is real hope that they will be a game changer in immunotherapy.
We've been looking for a long time for something to add to the immunotherapies we already have—that we know can change patients' lives—but with something that has a really acceptable side effect profile. And these therapies look like they might deliver on that promise.”

To create the vaccine, a tumor sample is removed during the patient's surgery. Scientists then sequence the tumor's genes to identify proteins produced by the cancer cells, known as neoantigens, that will trigger an immune response. These are then used to create an individualized mRNA vaccine that tells the patient's body to generate T cells to fight the tumors' specific mutational signature.

The T cells then attack the tumor, killing the cancer cells, while the immune system is supposed to recognize any future cancer cells.

Dr Shaw added: “This is very much an individualized therapy, and it's much smarter in some ways than a vaccine. It is custom built for the patient.”