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  • Writer's pictureRealFacts Editorial Team

Moderna’s Cancer Breakthrough: Vaccine-Boosted Immunotherapy Shines in New Data


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Moderna and Merck recently shared encouraging results from their joint research on a new vaccine combined with the immunotherapy drug Keytruda, aimed at treating the most severe type of skin cancer. Presented at the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting, the data shows the vaccine’s significant effectiveness in extending patient survival and preventing cancer from returning. This is important for Moderna as it shifts its focus from the decreasing demand for its COVID-19 vaccine to other new treatments in its pipeline. Notably, nearly 75% of patients treated with the vaccine-Keytruda combination remained cancer-free at the 2½-year mark, compared to 55.6% of those treated with only Keytruda, highlighting the vaccine’s broad potential for various patients.


The overall survival rate for patients receiving the combination therapy was an impressive 96% after 2½ years, compared to 90.2% for the Keytruda-only group. This combined treatment greatly reduced the risk of death or cancer recurrence by 49% and significantly lowered the chance of melanoma spreading. The main side effects reported were mild, including fatigue, injection site pain, and chills. Using mRNA technology similar to Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, the new vaccine is tailored to each patient’s tumor profile after surgery, training the immune system to target specific cancer mutations. In CNBC’s article “Moderna, Merck say vaccine improved survival in patients with deadly skin cancer” Annika Kim Constantino quotes Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel saying “Moderna is excited about working to reduce the time between the initial analysis of a tumor and when a patient gets injected with the shot” Bancel emphasized efforts to speed up the process from tumor analysis to vaccine administration to deliver treatment faster.


The significant progress of the vaccine earned it a breakthrough therapy designation from the U.S. FDA, designed to speed up the review process for treatments addressing critical medical needs. Moderna also plans to seek accelerated approval to make it available sooner. The rising incidence of melanoma, which accounts for many skin cancer deaths, underscores the urgent need for effective treatments. With about 100,000 new melanoma cases and nearly 8,000 related deaths expected in the U.S. this year, the ongoing progress of the vaccine, currently in phase-three trials for late-stage melanoma and other cancers, represents a major breakthrough in cancer treatment. Continued clinical trials and future studies will further explore the vaccine’s potential across different cancer types, offering hope for better outcomes for many patients.

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