Results from the phase 2 trial of the skin cancer vaccine, although they have not passed peer review, were presented at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting.
“This is probably the first real data to suggest that this personalized approach to vaccine might be worth working on,” said oncologist Ryan Sullivan of Mass General Cancer Center, a cancer treatment center.
To test the new treatment, created by Moderna and pharmaceutical company Merck, researchers gave the vaccine to 107 skin cancer patients, along with the drug that boosts the immune response. In 50 participants, only the standard treatment process was continued.
All patients’ cancerous tumors were surgically removed, but the risk of recurrence was high.
The researchers found that within two years, 40 percent (20 people) of patients who received standard treatment alone had the cancer returned.
However, only 22 percent of those who received both treatments relapsed (24 people).
The use of the vaccine reduced patients’ risk of recurrence or death by 44 percent compared to cancer treatment alone.
Stating that this research is potentially a big step forward, Sullivan said, “There may be hope not only for melanoma patients, but also for other types of cancer.”
Researchers expect to begin a phase 3 trial of the vaccine later this year. If it shows similar results, the treatment can be approved for patients within three years.
The mRNA vaccine technology, which is used to vaccinate millions of people around the world against COVID-19, was being developed for cancer even before the pandemic started.