mRNA vaccines, a promising treatment for people with occupational cancer

By Treven Pyles

Posted on September 14th, 2021

The mRNA technology that is currently used in the coronavirus vaccines could help in the treatment of occupational cancer such as mesothelioma and lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure. People who struggle with these diseases may receive these vaccines along with immunotherapy to enhance the effectiveness of this standard treatment.

Every year, over 200,000 people in the world lose their lives to occupational cancer. Occupational cancer encompasses malignant diseases arising from exposure to toxic agents in the workplace, such as asbestos. The most common occupational cancers are lung cancer, mesothelioma, and bladder cancer, all of which can be the result of asbestos exposure on the job.

People whose health was affected by asbestos exposure in industrial settings such as power plants, textile mills, chemical plants, shipyards, oil refineries, and construction sites represent a very large portion of our clients, which is why we are always striving to keep them up to date with the latest medical advances they could benefit from. A promising vaccine that could slow down the progress of mesothelioma and lung cancer has just been discovered by researchers.

A series of recent medical studies found that the new mRNA vaccines used for the prevention of coronavirus infection may also be effective in keeping cancer under control by destroying malignant cells. Right now, there are multiple clinical trials involving the use of mRNA vaccines in cancer patients with mesothelioma and lung cancer throughout the United States.

How do mRNA vaccines work?

The coronavirus vaccines are the first ones that make use of mRNA technology on a widespread scale. They use synthetic genetic code to instruct the cells in the body to identify the coronavirus and to subsequently activate the immune system to fight against it. However, researchers had been studying the role of mRNA vaccines in cancer care long before the emergence of coronavirus vaccines that use the same technology. When it comes to cancer, the mRNA vaccine works by training the immune system to recognize a certain protein that exists on the surface of malignant cells and then destroy it.

According to a study from the medical journal BioMed Research International in 2015, mesothelioma tumors express the protein that the mRNA vaccine targets. Therefore, this vaccine could be a viable treatment option for people with this cancer, which develops on the outer lining of the lungs. By receiving the mRNA vaccine, a person with mesothelioma may experience a slower progression of their cancer, as the synthetic genetic code will inhibit the further growth of malignant cells by attacking the specific protein present on their surface. Furthermore, this potential treatment could also increase the life expectancy of mesothelioma patients since a slower progression of the disease means additional survival years.

mRNA vaccines and immunotherapy

The promise that mRNA vaccines hold for occupational cancer patients is their purpose along with immunotherapy. Immunotherapy has become a standard treatment for cancer, including mesothelioma, and it involves using the immune system of the patient to fight the disease. This can be achieved in different ways, including the use of artificial substances that act as natural immune system components to destroy cancer cells. Therefore, you can see the similarity between the way immunotherapy works and the way the mRNA vaccines work.

Shortly after their administration, mRNA vaccines do the following, according to medical findings, which only increases the beneficial effects of immunotherapy:

  • express tumor antigens in antigen-presenting cells
  • facilitate antigen-presenting cells activation
  • perform innate or adaptive immune stimulation

Lung cancer and the mRNA vaccine

These mRNA cancer vaccines precede other conventional vaccine platforms by virtue of high potency, safe administration, rapid development potentials, and inexpensive manufacturing. A 2014 study from the Iranian Biomedical Journal revealed that the carcinoembryonic antigen mRNA, which is the protein specific to cancer cells, was positive in 24 out of 30 lung cancer patients who participated in the research. Accordingly, the sensitivity of the mRNA was estimated to be 80%. In conclusion, mRNA could be recommended as a sensitive and specific marker in peripheral blood for the primary diagnosis of lung cancer as well.

Not only could mRNA vaccines help the diagnostic process of lung cancer, but the treatment of the disease as well. Like mesothelioma, lung cancer tumors express the protein the vaccine targets, so receiving the mRNA vaccine as a lung cancer patient will yield the same benefits as it does for people with mesothelioma, namely a slower progression of the disease and a greater life expectancy. It is possible for the mRNA vaccine to even lead to the remission of cancer if the disease is found in the early stages and if the vaccine is administered in a timely manner. Sadly, the vast majority of individuals with occupational lung cancer receive their diagnosis when it is too late for treatment to be effective.

As explained, mRNA vaccines may contribute significantly to the effectiveness of occupational cancer treatment in the near future, but additional research is undoubtedly necessary to determine how exactly they should be used and in combination with which standard treatment. Most likely, mRNA vaccines will be used together with immunotherapy for people with mesothelioma and lung cancer. While the goal of a coronavirus vaccine is to protect against the virus, the role of a cancer vaccine is therapeutic. Nonetheless, mRNA vaccines can help in both cases by showing the immune system a protein that it has to recognize and respond to when it encounters a cell that expresses that particular protein.

If you have lung cancer or mesothelioma, our attorneys will help you file a claim for asbestos exposure

Asbestos exposure is always the culprit behind mesothelioma and causes approximately 4% of lung cancer cases. If you worked with asbestos during the last century, when the mineral was considered safe, and employees would not wear protective equipment and developed one of these awful diseases, you should give us a call, as we specialize in toxic exposure. We will carefully assess your case and, if we determine that you are eligible for compensation, we will promptly begin filing a toxic exposure claim on your behalf.

The only documents you will have to provide our legal team are your employment records and your medical records, which will be used as evidence to support your claim. Additionally, our experts will conduct in-depth research to discover more proof for your case. Eventually, you will obtain the maximum financial compensation you qualify for from the asbestos trust fund of your former employer and, if you are also a veteran, we will help you file a disability claim with the VA to receive this benefit as well.