It’s a promising breakthrough in the fight against recurrent melanoma. Today Moderna announced a possible melanoma vaccine it is studying with pharmaceutical giant Merck fared well in a study of patients who had their cancer surgically removed.The drugmakers said a combination of the vaccine and Merck’s immunotherapy Keytruda led to a statistically significant improvement in survival before the cancer returned in patients with advanced melanoma.
In a mid-stage clinical trial involving 157 patients, researchers compared the vaccine-Keytruda combination with Keytruda alone. Keytruda, Merck’s top seller, primes the body’s immune system to detect and fight tumor cells. Regulators have approved it to treat several types of cancer. The patient group that took the potential vaccine and Keytruda saw a 44% reduction in the risk of death or the cancer returning, the companies said.
Currently, immunotherapy for melanoma works in patients about half the time, but now, researchers from leading cancer institutions, including the John Theurer Cancer Center, have shown that using a new mRNA vaccine, can significantly reduce the likelihood of melanoma recurring or causing death by 44%, when compared to immunotherapy alone.
Immunotherapies have become the mainstay for treating melanoma, but some patients can become resistant to it. For this reason, researchers looked at adding the mRNA vaccines, the same vaccine used to treat COVID-19 and many other infections, because it can be tailored to target proteins involved in cancer.
Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. In 2023, nearly 187,000 Americans are expected to be diagnosed with the disease. Of these, more than 97,600 will be diagnosed with invasive (Stage I, II, III or IV) melanoma.
The mRNA cancer vaccine is important because it teaches the body’s immune system to recognize cells, or in this instance cancer cells, as different and fight them off. These vaccines can be personalized for each patient to target the specific cancer cells in their body. Researchers hope to one day apply this breakthrough to other forms of cancer.
SOURCE; Hackensack Meridian John Theurer Cancer Center