Health

New Vaccine and Treatment Team Making Progress Against Melanoma

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A powerful blend of an experimental mRNA vaccine and treatment from Moderna and Merck, alongside Merck’s Keytruda therapy, continues to demonstrate significant benefits for those at high risk of melanoma recurrence.

Recent findings from a three-year follow-up trial involving individuals with stage III or IV melanoma, who had undergone cancer removal but faced persistent risks, bring encouraging updates. Those administered the mRNA-4157/V940 vaccine with Keytruda showed a substantial 49% lower risk of cancer recurrence or mortality and an impressive 62% lower risk of cancer spread or mortality compared to those solely on Keytruda.

David L. Ryan | Boston Globe | Getty Images

Building on this, earlier results from a two-year follow-up also displayed positive outcomes: a notable 44% lower risk of cancer recurrence or mortality and a significant 65% lower risk of cancer spread or mortality in individuals receiving Keytruda along with the mRNA-4157/V940 vaccine.

Stephane Bancel, Moderna’s CEO, hinted at a potential expedited approval for this specialized treatment by 2025. Additionally, Moderna is establishing a new manufacturing facility in Massachusetts to ensure enhanced accessibility.

Keytruda received FDA approval in 2014, marking a crucial step in cancer treatment by strengthening the body’s defense against specific cancers. The mRNA-4157/V940 in combination with Keytruda earned a special designation that accelerates drug development for therapies showing substantial improvements over existing options.

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However, concerns remain. Approximately a quarter of trial participants receiving Keytruda alongside the vaccine reported severe issues linked to the treatment, slightly higher than those solely on Keytruda. Common vaccine-related side effects included fatigue, injection site discomfort, and chills.

It’s crucial to note that while the trial results appear promising, they await validation by other experts and publication in medical journals. Moderna and Merck are progressing to larger trials, encompassing a wider array of tumor types.

Melanoma represents a small fraction of skin cancers but is responsible for a majority of skin cancer-related fatalities, as highlighted by the American Cancer Society. In 2023, an estimated 100,000 new cases of melanoma were anticipated in the US, resulting in nearly 8,000 fatalities.

As researchers continue striving for improved treatments, the collaborative efforts between these pharmaceutical companies offer hope in combating the impact of melanoma. Despite challenges, this combination of vaccine and treatment signifies a promising stride in transforming the outlook for this dreadful disease.

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