The Department of Health and Human Services has announced $1.5 million in additional research funding for the Covid vaccine. The money will allow the manufacture of the vaccine — which is touted as a highly effective, new option for people with aggressive forms of cancer — for the first time since its approval.
Approved in 2017, the Covid vaccine is made from a genetically engineered form of squamous cell carcinoma and will be manufactured at a new high-tech plant in Memphis. The promise of the Covid vaccine is that it will not be capable of causing immunosuppressive antibodies. As a result, Covid-containing therapy is less likely to worsen people’s condition.
Doctors and researchers have been busy working to develop new drugs to manage cancer-fighting immune systems, said Melanie Miller, director of research operations at Global Militarism and Terrorism Research in New Jersey.
Although most cancer treatments make patients sick again, Covid has been given great consideration by some physicians, including Ann Marie Walsh, an assistant professor of radiation oncology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. At first, Walsh said, she gave the vaccine to her patients in a large dose — twice the recommended amount. The dosage dropped to twice the amount after some patients began to die and when she reviewed the studies that created the expanded dose, Walsh said.
“I was very excited when I heard that this came out,” she said. “It was the first time I felt something new was coming out and I really needed it. It is both an approval and a promise and I think that’s the best part. I feel like we’re getting closer to being able to immuno-train more patients in that way.”
The Covid vaccine, by itself, has already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and has been given to millions of patients since its approval. The FDA is giving the FDA additional funding for more human studies to decide how the cancer therapy’s expanding doses could work for others — particularly patients like Josena Larriba, who was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the larynx.
“When Covid was first approved, there was a lot of concern about what the response rate was going to be for young people with strong immune systems, and some people did not even get the vaccine,” Larriba said.
Her current therapy is a curative therapy after surgery and radiation, and Larriba wanted to see how Covid might work. “It’s been wonderful. It was really worth the wait,” she said.
The FDA estimates that at least 30,000 patients will have the Covid vaccine in their future; out of those, more than 40 percent will be younger than 40.