Scientists use lessons from Covid vaccine development to treat breast cancer

  • By Michelle Napier

Researchers in Northern Ireland are adapting lessons from Covid-19 vaccines to form new treatments for an aggressive form of breast cancer.

Scientists based at Queen's University in Belfast (QUB) have been given a grant of £228,900 from Breast Cancer Now to develop an mRNA vaccine to help the immune system destroy cancer cells.

The researchers specifically want to target protein p53 which they say is found at very high levels in around 90% of triple negative breast cancer tumours.

Tackling the protein in this way is a similar to the approach taken by Moderna and Pzfizer scientists during the development of their Coronavirus vaccines.

Dr Niamh Buckley from QUB - who conducted the research along with Professor Helen McCarthy - said the grant will enable researchers to "exploit the promising new research routes highlighted by the innovative science behind the Covid-19 vaccines to search for new treatments for breast cancer".

Meanwhile Director of Research, Support and Influencing at Breast Cancer Now, Dr Simon Vincent, said the Covid-19 pandemic "had a particularly significant impact on people with cancer symptoms and those already receiving treatment".

"However, it also brought the breakthrough development of the Covid-19 vaccines and it's exciting that we can now capitalise on the brilliant science behind them to expand the limited targeted treatments available to treat this aggressive type of breast cancer," he added.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know.