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First Patient Administered mRNA Cancer Vaccine Developed by Hungarian Researcher Karikó

Zsófia Nagy-Vargha 2021.06.30.

The first experimental cancer vaccine developed by, among others, Hungarian researcher Katalin Karikó, has already been administered to its first patient. In an earlier interview, the Hungarian mRNA pioneer revealed that she had been working on the skin tumor vaccine trials at BioNTech two years ago.

German-American company BioNTech recently announced that a patient with incurable skin cancer has been the first to be treated in the company’s phase 2 cancer vaccine trial, dubbed BNT111-01.

The BNT111-01 trial, which is being conducted in collaboration with Regeneron, was reviewed and approved by the regulatory authorities in Spain, Germany, Italy and Poland as well as in the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia.

Katalin Karikó Awarded Reichstein Medal, Nobel Prize on the Horizon?
Katalin Karikó Awarded Reichstein Medal, Nobel Prize on the Horizon?

The reward from the Swiss Academy is a sign of Karikó's increasing odds of winning a Nobel Prize in the near future.Continue reading

A total of 120 patients are taking part in the randomized trial which evaluates the efficacy, tolerability, and safety of the drug observed in patients with inoperable melanomas.

“Tumors on the surface, such as melanoma or other tumors on the face or neck, can be injected with a mixture of mRNA that will call the immune cells and tell them, ‘Here’s the cancer, this is the one to kill,” the Széchenyi Prize-winning researcher described her endeavor, adding that the technology is not only used in cancer research. Second phase trials using mRNA to study the hearts of people with heart attacks are also underway.


Just like the Covid-19 vaccine from BioNTech, the cancer drug BNT111 also uses the new mRNA technology. This technology ensures that human cells receive the protein production information they need to fight the targeted pathogens. BNT111 is the most advanced vaccine prospect of five currently in clinical development. It is used in combination with libtayo (cemiplimab), a monoclonal antibody drug used to treat skin cancer.

“Our vision is to harness the power of the immune system against cancer and infectious diseases. We were able to demonstrate the potential of mRNA vaccines in addressing COVID-19. We must not forget that cancer is also a global health threat, even worse than the current pandemic,“ said Özlem Türeci, M.D., Co-founder and Chief Medical Officer of BioNTech, in a press release.

Featured photo by Csilla Cseke/MTI