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New Moderna cancer vaccine cuts melanoma by 44%: study

A new cancer vaccine from Moderna is showing breakthrough results in preventing recurrences of melanoma, and could ward off other types of cancer as well, the Wall Street Journal reported.

In a mid-stage clinical trial involving post-surgery patients, the vaccine was paired with Keytruda, an immunotherapy manufactured by Merck. The risk of relapse or death by skin cancer was lowered by 44% from the use of Keytruda alone.

“This is the first time we see a really strong signal with a cancer vaccine,”  Merck’s head of global clinical development and chief medical officer, Eliav Barr said.

“This is the first time we can actually show that with the removal of the brakes on immune responsiveness that Keytruda provides, plus an extraordinarily good vaccine, we engender a really great immune response.”

“It’s a tremendous step forward in immunotherapy,” Barr told Reuters in a separate interview.

A new vaccine is showing breakthrough results against melanoma.
A new vaccine is showing breakthrough results against melanoma.
Getty Images

The Journal reported that the encouraging results — not yet independently reviewed — could expand usage of Moderna’s messenger RNA platform used in its Covid vaccine. That was the first time the gene-related technology was put to use.

Both companies are planning to run larger studies than the initial 150 person trial, in an effort to confirm the safety and overall effectiveness of the jab. Continued good news could pave way for a regulatory green light for the vaccine, which will be tested on other types of cancers as well, according to its creators.

“We don’t want to waste time,” Moderna Chief Executive Stephane Bancel said. “Given the data is so strong, for me it’s a Covid-like moment.”

Moderna’s vaccine is tailored to each patient, in the interest of fighting off specifically what they are battling. The process takes between one to two months in total.

The journey begins with a biopsy of the patient’s tumor, followed by analysis of samples and identification of mutations within the cancer cells, also known as neoepitopes. Once studied, the cells will have their genetic codes selected to create a bespoke shot.

Moderna and Merck are piloting a new vaccine meant to fight cancer.
Moderna and Merck are piloting a new vaccine meant to fight cancer.
REUTERS

When injected, the concoction has a person’s cells replicate their own neoepitopes to trigger a more efficient response to kill the cells.

Both companies believe this approach compliments the effects of Keytruda, which enhances the body’s immune system to fight tumors.

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