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Drugmakers say skin cancer vaccine, immunotherapy showing promising results

Merck-Moderna Cancer Vaccine
Merck-Moderna Cancer Vaccine
Posted at 12:51 PM, Dec 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-14 12:29:25-05

Doctors may soon have more tools to treat skin cancer.

Moderna announced Tuesday that its mRNA cancer vaccine, combined with Keytruda, a type of immunotherapy by Merck, reduced the risk of recurrence or death by 44% in patients with stage III/IV melanoma following complete resection.

Moderna says its vaccines "stimulate an immune response by generating specific T cell responses based on the unique mutational signature of a patient's tumor." It adds that Kyetruda then helps the body's immune system detect and fight tumor cells.

"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," said Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel.

Shares of Moderna and Merck jumped after Tuesday's announcement.

The companies said they plan to discuss the potential initiation of a Phase 3 study in 2023.

"Over the last six 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. We look forward to advancing this program into the next phase of development," Dr. Dean Y. Li, president of Merck Research Laboratories.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control.