The mRNA vaccine against cancer proved effective first
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The mRNA vaccine against cancer proved effective first

Posted on Dec 13, 2022 at 04:19 pmUpdated December 13th. 2022 at 18:32

This is the first of its kind in the search for therapeutic vaccines using messenger RNA (mRNA) to treat cancers. An alliance between Moderna biotech and the American giant Merck MSD, which was formed to develop such vaccines, has revealed encouraging results from clinical trials on advanced-stage skin cancer patients.

Melanoma is one of two types of skin cancer. Its frequency has doubled every 10 years for fifty years due to sun exposure and currently affects 19 people out of 100,000 in Western Europe.

“therapeutic” vaccine

The two partners have completed their Phase 2 clinical trials of a vaccine candidate. This is the so-called “curative” mRNA vaccine, as opposed to preventive vaccines. It is also a personalized vaccine: the principle is to use messenger RNA to direct the immune system against the cancerous mutation observed in a particular patient.

The results, published on Tuesday, relate to a vaccine candidate being tested in patients with advanced-stage (stage 3 or 4) melanoma. In this test conducted by Moderna since 2019 in the US and Australia (the country with the highest rate of melanomas in the world), 157 participants were separated, once the melanomas were removed, into two treatment groups after surgery. Relapse prevention. One group took the standard cancer drug, Keytruda from Merck MSD. The other took Keytruda in combination with the vaccine candidate being tested.

Phase 3 mid-2023

Conclusion: Postoperative treatment combining the vaccine candidate with Keytruda “reduced the rate of recurrence or death by 44% compared to Keytruda alone,” the two companies confirmed in a news release. Serious side effects were seen in 14.4% of patients who took this combination, compared to 10% in the group who took Keytruda alone.

Today, with advanced stage 3 melanomas having a five-year survival rate of 60% and 16% in stage 4, these initial results are “very encouraging for the treatment of cancer,” says Stéphane Bancel, Managing Director of Moderna, in this detailed news. Journalist.

Since Moderna and Merck MSD entered into a research agreement in 2016 on personalized mRNA cancer vaccines, some vaccine candidates have been abandoned. He continues on his way. The results obtained will make it possible to appeal to the regulatory authorities and “we hope to obtain permission to start Phase 3 in the middle of 2023,” notes Dr. Eliav Bar, Global Head of Clinical Research at Merck MSD.

Lung Cancer

Good news for European patients, they will be able to benefit from the rest of the tests because they will also take place in Europe. “Moderna led the second stage and demonstrated a ‘proof of concept’, and now Merck MSD will implement the third stage, which will be much larger. We will drive it in the US, Australia and Europe at the same time, ”explains Eliaf Bar. There is also hope to expand the trials to include less advanced stages of skin cancer.

This is not the only development expected next year. The Moderna/Merck MSD tandem is testing a therapeutic mRNA vaccine against lung cancer. “We already have the results of the first stage, and we plan to start the second stage in 2023,” Eliav Bar continues.

Regardless of the type of cancer targeted, clinical trials will take time. For more advanced testing, related to melanomas, “Phase III will take at least 3 years,” Merck MSD’s medical director estimates. We must assess the effects over time.

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