The BioNTech CEO says he wants to turn his emphasis back to his first love: fighting cancer. Dr UgurSahin is testing CAR-T therapy, the most modern and riskiest approach to cancer treatment, utilizing the same mRNA technology that powers the Covid-19 vaccine that BioNTech and its partner, Pfizer, introduced to much of the world.
CEO Of BioNTech Intends To Retrace The Steps That Led To Its Origins
The most modern and riskiest kind of cancer treatment, CAR-T therapy, focuses on Dr Sahin’s research. By using an mRNA vaccination, Sahin hopes to make the treatment both safer and more effective and more inexpensive in the long term.
He will share some preliminary findings from clinical studies at the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer meeting in Washington, DC. Patients’ own T cells are extracted for CAR-T therapy, also known as chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy. The modified T cells are subsequently re-infused back into their bodies.
According to FDA approvals, just a handful of CAR-T treatments are now available in the United States. According to Sahin, they are more efficient against bloodstream cancers. On solid tumours, he is aiming to apply this method. The trouble is that it’s toxic. There are potentially catastrophic adverse effects, including as cytokine release syndrome, a severe form of inflammation, and swelling of the brain.
With the approach being used against solid tumours, there is an increased risk. There are only a few cancer-specific targets, according to Sahin. As a result, it becomes increasingly difficult to come up with a treatment that is both effective and safe. Because safety is so important, it is challenging to locate targets that are not dangerous.
BioNTech is looking at a molecule known as claudin 6 that has been shown to be effective in the fight against cancer. When it comes to healthy cells, “it is not expressed,” says Sahin. Yet, it is activated and expressed in a wide range of cancers, including testicular cancer, ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer, and a smaller fraction of tumours generally.
In addition to stomach cancer, lung cancer, and various types of sarcoma, he said, “It is also expressed in these diseases.” “It’s a great target because it’s as clear-cut as they come. Normal tissue does not contain it, but cancerous tissue does, as evidenced by the high levels detected there. As a result, we have generated a powerful antibody that serves as the CAR-T cell’s receptor.”
Sahin’s data includes nine patients with testicular, ovarian, and endometrial cancers, as well as a patient with a soft tissue sarcoma. Using this method looks to be a risk-free choice. We haven’t noticed any hazardous effects. However, we’re keeping an eye on the clinical scene.
We’re seeing tumour shrinkage even at low doses, which is a positive sign for us. The second goal is to see the T-cells grow and thrive in the hope that they will continue to fight the disease in the future. At least some of the patients studied, according to Sahin, have shown signs of this phenomenon.
We could try to help this condition with the mRNA vaccine. He plans to use it to train T-cells how to expand and sweep the body for tumour cells, much how immunizations work overtime to protect humans from infectious diseases, in an effort to help prevent cancer.