Dec. 13, 2022 -- Moderna and Merck jointly announced Tuesday progress on a drug combination to fight the recurrence of melanoma, a deadly skin cancer.
The potential vaccine is formed by combining messenger RNA (mRNA) technology – common in coronavirus vaccines -- and Merck’s cancer immunotherapy drug Keytruda, the companies said.
Patients in a trial who received the combination had a 44% lower risk of recurrence or death compared to those who received only Keytruda.
“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,” Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s chief executive officer, said in a press release.
Moderna developed one of the most used COVID-19 vaccines.
“The study is the first randomized trial to show that combining mRNA vaccine technology with a drug that revs up the immune response would offer a better result for melanoma patients and potentially for other cancers,” Reuters reported,
The Wall Street Journal said the companies will run a larger study to next year, further strengthening the safety and efficacy of the combination. “Positive results of that study could clear the way for potential regulatory approval of Moderna’s experimental cancer vaccine,” the Journal wrote.
Moderna and Merck also plan to test the combination in other types of cancers.
“We will begin additional studies in melanoma and other forms of cancer with the goal of bringing truly individualized cancer treatments to patients,” Bancel said. “We look forward to publishing the full data set and sharing the results at an upcoming oncology medical conference, as well as with health authorities.”
The new study followed 157 patients with stage III/IV melanoma. Their tumors were surgically removed before treatment with the combination or just Keytruda.