A new study in mice has brought scientists closer to creating an mRNA vaccine against skin cancer.
Scientists at Oregon State University’s (OSU) College of Pharmacy may have just developed a vaccine that will protect against sun-induced skin cancer. The vaccine will be a messenger or messenger RNA, the same technology used by Moderna and Pfizer to fight COVID-19. It will teach the body to produce additional antioxidant proteins, increasing its ability to protect DNA from damage caused by sunlight.
“For more than 40 years, researchers have looked at dietary antioxidants as a possible source of inexpensive, low-risk agents for cancer prevention. But they have not always performed well in clinical trials, and in some cases have even been harmful. Hence the need to try to intervene with new chemoprophylactic agents such as an mRNA vaccine,” Arup Indra, OSU Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences and leader of the study, said in a statement.
In a study in mice, researchers removed thioredoxin reductase 1 (TR1, encoded by the TXNRD1 gene) from their antioxidant systems to evaluate how the protein affects the defense of melanocytes, specialized skin cells that produce the pigment melanin. It turned out that without TR1, melanocyte proliferation was significantly reduced. Thus, the scientists concluded that TR1 directly affects melanocytes, which are responsible for preventing skin cancer. If the vaccine can generate more TR1, it could protect against sun-induced UV damage to cells.
Scientists hope that people at increased risk of skin cancer can get vaccinated once a year for extra protection from the sun’s rays. The study is published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.