Medical reports indicate that the next significant breakthrough in cancer treatment could come in the form of vaccines.

Researchers have reached a turning point where vaccines aimed at shrinking tumours and preventing cancer recurrence could become available within the next five years.

Promising targets for these experimental treatments include breast cancer, lung cancer, melanoma (a deadly form of skin cancer), and pancreatic cancer.

This has become possible because scientists have made substantial progress in understanding how cancer evades the immune system. Cancer vaccines, like other immunotherapies, work by boosting the immune system to detect and eliminate cancer cells. 

Some of the new vaccines utilize mRNA technology, which gained widespread recognition through its application in COVID-19 vaccines.

Further advances in cancer prevention through vaccines are also on the horizon. Decades-old hepatitis B vaccines have proven effective in preventing liver cancer, while the introduction of HPV vaccines in 2006 has successfully reduced the incidence of cervical cancer.

Leading pharmaceutical companies, Moderna and Merck, are said to be collaborating on the development of a personalized mRNA vaccine for patients with melanoma. This approach involves customizing the vaccine to each patient based on the specific mutations found in their cancer tissue. By training the immune system to target these mutations, the personalized vaccine aims to eradicate cancer cells bearing the identified genetic fingerprints.

However, the personalized nature of these vaccines may come very costly.

In contrast, non-personalized vaccines, similar to the COVID-19 vaccine, could be produced at a significantly lower cost.

At the University of Washington School of Medicine, researchers are focusing on developing vaccines that can benefit a wide range of patients, not just a single individual. Tests are currently underway for early and advanced breast cancer, lung cancer, and ovarian cancer. Some preliminary results from these studies may emerge as early as next year.