Moderna's new cancer vaccine combined with an immunotherapy treatment from Merck shows great promise in preventing the recurrence of melanoma and dramatically reducing the risk of death due to the disease, according to just-released data. The vaccine is based on mRNA technology, the basis for the company's COVID-19 vaccines.
The combination of the vaccine with the "blockbuster immunotherapy Keytruda cut the risk of skin cancer's recurrence or death by 44% compared with Keytruda alone in a mid-stage trial," Reuters reports.
"It's a tremendous step forward in immunotherapy," Eliav Barr, Merck's head of global clinical development and chief medical officer, said in an interview.
Paul Burton, Moderna's chief medical officer, said in a separate interview the combination "has the capacity to be a new paradigm in the treatment of cancer."
The ongoing study involved 157 patients with stage III/IV melanoma whose tumors were surgically removed before being treated with the drug/vaccine combo or Keytruda alone with the aim of delaying disease recurrence.
The combination was generally safe and showed a statistically significant benefit compared with Keytruda alone after a year of treatment. Serious drug-related side effects occurred in 14.4% of patients who received the drug-vaccine combination compared with 10% with Keytruda alone.