USA— Moderna and its partner Merck have made a groundbreaking discovery in the fight against melanoma. 

The two companies’ personalized mRNA vaccine, developed in combination with the immunotherapy Keytruda, has shown remarkable results in treating the deadly skin cancer.

The study, which involved 157 patients with advanced skin cancer, found that after two-and-a-half years, those who received the vaccine combination had an overall survival rate of 96%, compared to 90.2% for those who received Keytruda alone. 

Additionally, 75% of patients on the vaccine combination had a recurrence-free survival, compared to 55.6% on Keytruda alone.

The vaccine relies on the same mRNA technology behind the COVID-19 vaccine, which allows genetic information coding for different proteins to be swapped out.

Each patient’s vaccine is tailored to the specific mutations in their tumor, making it a highly personalized treatment. 

The vaccine includes up to 34 tumor-specific targets, and most patients generated strong T cell populations against 15 to 20 of them.

“This has the power to transform cancer treatments across the world,” said Professor Georgina Long, co-director of the Melanoma Institute Australia.The trial results are transformative for not only the treatment of melanoma but they set the stage and benchmark for other cancers.” 

The study’s lead investigator, Dr. Heather Shaw, emphasized that the vaccine is “absolutely custom-built for the patient” and “truly personalized.”

The trial will continue to follow these patients and include 100 more in phase 3.

The two companies are also testing the same combination in patients with other types of skin cancer, kidney, and bladder cancer.

 If the current results hold up, they could represent a milestone for cancer immunotherapy, potentially opening the door for a one-time treatment that might eliminate a person’s cancer for good.

The study’s findings are significant, as melanoma is a highly aggressive and deadly form of skin cancer. 

The vaccine’s ability to increase populations of T cells that specifically target tumors and its potential to eliminate cancer cells for good make it a promising treatment option. 

The study’s results have the potential to transform cancer treatments worldwide and could lead to a new era in cancer immunotherapy.

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