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Russia on the verge of creating cancer vaccines, Putin claims 

Montana, and 44 other states, allows religious exemptions from immunization requirements for school-age children. (Dreamstime/TNS)
February 25, 2024

President Vladimir Putin recently announced that Russian scientists were on the cusp of developing a vaccine for cancer, adding that he hopes the new therapy could be applied to individual treatments in the future. While Putin did not elaborate further on the types of cancers the vaccines targeted or the method of delivery for the newly developed vaccines, his statements align Russia with several other countries engaged in researching cancer vaccines. 

According to Reuters, Putin seemed confident that the therapies could be applied in the near future when speaking at a Moscow forum on February 14.

“We have come very close to the creation of so-called cancer vaccines and immunomodulatory drugs of a new generation,” Putin said.” I hope that soon they will be effectively used as methods of individual therapy.”

While details on how the vaccines might work on the body weren’t released, Russia has traditionally veered away from mRNA vaccine technology. 

In early 2023, German-based BioNTech launched clinical trials of several anti-cancer vaccines. These trials were platformed on BioNTechs prior to mRNA vaccine research, as the laboratory was a leading developer of the Covid-19 vaccine. BNT162b2, an mRNA vaccine developed by the laboratory 12 years ago, became the basis for mRNA Covid-19 vaccines. The success of the Covid-19 vaccine initiated BioNTech trials for mRNA-based cancer vaccines.

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During the pandemic, Russia developed and released Sputnik V, which deviated from the mRNA-vaccine platform and instead operated on an adenovirus vector platform. Unlike mRNA vaccines, adenovirus vector vaccines work in ways similar to traditional vaccines. 

Two laboratories, Moderna and Merck & Co, are developing experimental cancer vaccines that target melanoma. In late 2022, the two companies announced mRNA-4157/V940, a vaccine that statistically lowered the risk of death or relapse in patients currently battling late-stage melanoma. According to CNN, the vaccine, while still in clinical trials, continued to extend protections to patients for three years following treatment. 

While mRNA vaccines are in development as an emerging therapy, vaccines that have shown cancer-prevention properties have been available and tested for over a decade. In January 2022, Public Health Scotland published a research study demonstrating that cervical cancer was eradicated in all women who had received the human papillomavirus virus (HPV) vaccine. HPV is a communicable infection thought to increase the risk of cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine operates on a non-infectious recombinant vaccine basis rather than mRNA basis.