Moderna, Merck vaccine combo cut melanoma recurrence by 44 percent

B.R. Shenoy

"Moderna's trial shot uses the same mRNA vaccine technology that has played an integral role in the success of COVID-19 vaccines, and the combination with Keytruda "has the capacity to be a new paradigm in the treatment of cancer," Paul Burton, Moderna's chief medical officer said in an interview.

According to CBS News, Moderna and Merck announced progress on a drug combination to combat melanoma, a deadly skin cancer, on December 13.

According to the companies, the potential vaccine is created by combining messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, commonly used in coronavirus vaccines, and Merck’s cancer immunotherapy drug Keytruda.

Per Reuters, a mid-stage trial using a combination of Moderna’s experimental melanoma vaccine and Merck’s immunotherapy Keytruda “cut the risk of skin cancer recurrence or death by 44 percent compared to Keytruda alone.”

The study is the first to show that combining mRNA vaccine technology — which has been used to develop successful COVID-19 vaccines — with a drug that boosts the immune response improves outcomes for patients with the most lethal type of skin cancer, per reports.

Reuters reports the ongoing clinical trial included 157 melanoma patients, and researchers found side effects in 14.4 percent of those who received the drug-vaccine combination, compared to 10% of those who only received Keytruda.

Moderna created one of the most widely used COVID-19 vaccines.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the companies will conduct a more extensive study next year to strengthen the combination’s safety and efficacy.

Moderna and Merck intend to test the combination in other cancers as well.

Closing Thoughts

Per The Hill:

“Keytruda is an immunotherapy used to fight a variety of cancers, including melanoma, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer. MRNA teaches a person’s cells to make a protein to trigger an immune response in their body, protecting them from a virus or disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” 

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops when the pigment-producing cells that give the skin its color turn cancerous. 

According to the American Cancer Society, melanoma rates have risen recently, with over 99,000 new melanoma diagnoses expected in 2022. This year, approximately 7,650 people are expected to die from skin cancer.

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