DNA strand

These next-generation vaccines could upend cancer treatment as we know it

Some of the tech used to make COVID-19 shots could help treat cancer and heart disease.

By Tatyana Woodall, Inverse

Ever since the first successful cowpox vaccine arrived in 1796, vaccination has become one of our most powerful tools against a barrage of dangerous infections from the invisible bacteria and viruses that lurk all around us.

In the past few centuries since the cowpox vaccine, society has shifted toward healthier lifestyles, better hygiene, and increasingly robust health care — steadily increasing our average life expectancy.

Despite this, instances of fatal illnesses, such as cancer and heart disease, have also risen dramatically. And as the United States population both swells and grows older, these conditions may become even more prevalent.

In fact, the annual number of cancer cases in the U.S. could increase by nearly 50 percent between 2015 and 2050, according to a 2021 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with the greatest impact on people 75 and older.

Conditions that contribute to heart disease risks, like diabetes and hypertension, could also soar among the U.S. population in coming decades, a study published last year in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found.

But we may have hope for these common ailments. Now, researchers are pouring their resources into creating vaccines for heart disease and cancer — Moderna, the massive biotech company behind one of the leading Covid-19 vaccines, claims it could even have these ready by 2030.

These tools could help stem the tide against the social and physical destruction these diseases reap and, in the process, aid researchers’ understanding of the body’s inner workings. But while they’ve sparked plenty of buzz, these groundbreaking vaccines may not be the magic cure-all many expect them to be. Read more …