A new mRNA cancer vaccine is undergoing an important human trial

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An experimental mRNA cancer vaccine jointly developed by Moderna and Merck is said to have made it through a phase II trial. According to the companies, skin cancer survivors who received the vaccine along with immunotherapy were 44% less likely to have the cancer return or die than those who only had immunotherapy. The findings suggest that mRNA vaccines could be an effective tool against cancer and will pave the way for larger Phase III trials of the treatment.

Merck and Moderna announced the results of their Phase IIb trial Tuesday morning. It included 157 patients with advanced melanoma who had all of their tumors surgically removed. These patients were randomly divided into two groups who received treatment for about a year. One group was given regular infusions of Merck’s Keytruda, an antibody made in a lab that helps immune cells better recognize and kill certain types of cancer. The other group was given Keytruda and nine doses in total of the candidate vaccine, called mRNA-4157/V940.

The combination of the vaccine and immunotherapy is said to have succeeded in achieving the primary goal set by the researchers, with these patients going significantly longer without their cancer returning on average than those who received only Keytruda (a measure known as recurrence-free survival). The vaccine with Keytruda also appears to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence and death by 44%.

“Today’s results are very encouraging in the field of cancer treatment. Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said at a press conference: statement.

The safety profile of Keytruda in this trial was consistent with previous research, the company added, although those given the combination treatment faced a higher risk of serious adverse events (14.4% compared to 10% of patients treated with Keytruda alone). These risks often outweigh the benefits that immunotherapy can provide for patients with cancers that may be untreatable.

There are vaccines available that can prevent major contributing factors to some types of cancer, such as the vaccine against human papillomavirusVirus (HPV), which is the main cause of cervical cancer. But the Moderna and Merck filter is an example Personalized cancer vaccine. These vaccines are designed to prevent a person’s existing, hard-to-remove cancer from coming back after treatment. They aim to train the immune system to recognize new cancer antigens — proteins that are uniquely produced by cancer cells. In this case, the mRNA platform is used to deliver instructions to the body’s cells so that they can produce these new antigens, specifically tuned to a person’s own cancer. The hope is that the immune system will then target and remember those new antigens in the future. Several researchers have argued that combining these vaccines with immunotherapy drugs should increase their effect.

Scientists have been very interested in personalized cancer vaccines for years, and this research has played a huge role A pivotal role In developing mRNA vaccine technology, even before it was used as a basis for covid-19 vaccines. But only in the past few years have they looked promising enough to reach the public in the near future. There are now dozens of clinical trials underway testing several vaccine candidates, and Moderna and Merck’s technologies are probably the closest to success. But before that can happen, their vaccine must pass several Phase III trials, which are necessary to secure regulatory approval.

According to Moderna, the companies plan to present the full data from this trial at upcoming oncology conferences and regulatory agencies in the near future. Phase 3 trials of the melanoma vaccine are scheduled to begin next year. The companies hope this approach can be used for other challenging cancers as well.

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