HealthDay News — Moderna and Merck said they have made notable progress with a vaccine that could prevent melanoma. Moderna, well known for its work on the COVID-19 vaccine, and Merck, which makes the cancer immunotherapy drug Keytruda (pembrolizumab), announced that the combination performed well in a small study of patients who had melanoma surgically removed.
“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,” Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a company news release. “We will begin additional studies in melanoma and other forms of cancer with the goal of bringing truly individualized cancer treatments to patients.”
Study participants experienced a statistically significant improvement in survival with a combination of the vaccine and pembrolizumab before cancer returned in patients who had advanced melanoma.
“These positive findings represent an important milestone in our collaboration with Moderna,” said Dean Li, MD, president of Merck Research Laboratories. “Over the last 6 years, our teams have worked closely together combining our respective expertise in mRNA and immuno-oncology with a focus on improving outcomes for patients with cancer.”
Researchers compared the combination of the vaccine and pembrolizumab to pembrolizumab alone in a midstage clinical trial that included 157 patients. Those who received the vaccine-pembrolizumab combination had a 44% reduction in the risk for death or cancer returning when compared with pembrolizumab alone. Researchers administered the treatments for approximately 1 year in both groups, with exceptions made for severe side effects or disease return.