An experimental cancer vaccine developed by Moderna and pharmaceutical giant Merck reduced the risk of reoccurrence or death from melanoma by 44%, according to a mid-stage trial.
The drugmakers said Tuesday that a combination of a vaccine using the same technology in Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine and Merck’s immunotherapy Keytruda, which helps the body detect and fight tumor cells, improved the survival rates among patients with stage 3 or stage 4 melanoma who already had the cancer surgically removed, when compared to patients who received Keytruda alone.
“Today’s results are highly encouraging for the field of cancer treatment. mRNA has been transformative for COVID-19, and now, for the first time ever, we have demonstrated the potential for mRNA to have an impact on outcomes in a randomized clinical trial in melanoma,” said Stephane Bancel, CEO of Moderna. “We will begin additional studies in melanoma and other forms of cancer with the goal of bringing truly individualized cancer treatments to patients.”
The companies said they plan to move forward with a Phase 3 study next year, one of the largest phases in clinical research, before regulators review whether to approve it and will then research its effect on other types of cancer.
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that occurs when the pigment-producing cells that give color to the skin become cancerous.
The American Cancer Society says that the rates of melanoma have risen over the past few years, with over 99,000 new melanoma diagnoses expected in 2022. Approximately 7,650 people are expected to die of the skin cancer this year.