Moderna, Merck sees positive results from skin cancer vaccine

Scientists have made an impressive breakthrough in the search for a cancer vaccine.

Drugmakers Moderna and Merck have announced positive results from a trial in which messenger RNA technology was used for the first time to make personalized vaccines for skin cancer patients.

mRNA technology proved vital in the development of vaccines against Covid-19, and scientists have long believed it could help fight other viruses and diseases such as cancer.

In a preliminary trial, 150 people who had their melanoma tumor surgically removed received up to nine doses of the experimental vaccine along with the skin cancer treatment Keytruda.

The study showed a 44% reduction in the risk of death or relapse compared to patients who were only treated with Keytruda, an immunotherapy drug.

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“Today’s results are very encouraging for the field of cancer treatment,” Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said in a statement.

“MRNA has been transformative for COVID-19 and now, for the first time, we have shown the potential for mRNA to impact outcomes in a randomized clinical trial in melanoma.”

Moderna and Merck, known as MSD outside of North America, will soon release the full results of the study, the results of which have not yet been peer-reviewed.

The companies will also launch a Phase 3 trial in 2023, which includes a larger number of patients.

Messenger RNA is a molecule inside cells that carries instructions for making proteins. Scientists can engineer them to produce a particular protein in the body that can help fight viruses and other diseases.

Moderna and drugmaker Pfizer-BioNTech were the first to use the technology to create the mRNA vaccines used to fight Covid-19.

The melanoma vaccine is tailored to “prime the immune system so that a patient can generate a personalized anti-tumor response specific to their tumor mutation signature,” Moderna said.

Melanoma is the worst form of skin cancer and nearly 325,000 new cases were diagnosed in 2020.

About 8,000 people are expected to die from melanoma in 2022, according to the release.

Moderna and Merck agreed in October to jointly develop the personalized skin cancer vaccine, for which they will share costs and profits.

Originally published as Scientists make cancer vaccine breakthrough

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