Sunday, December 18, 2022

Experimental skin cancer vaccine shows promise when used with Keytruda, new study says

A small clinical test shows an experimental skin cancer vaccine, mRNA, may be promising, a new study indicates.

The study, according to a story by Lenny Bernstein this week in The Washington Post, shows that the vaccine from Moderna performed well when used alongside an immunotherapy drug developed by Merck.

Bernstein's article contends that "for the first time, messenger RNA technology — the advance that undergirds the most commonly used coronavirus vaccines — has been shown effective against a deadly form of skin cancer, when used in conjunction with" the Merck drug, pembrolizumab, which is marketed as Keytruda.

A cautionary note: The study, which involved 57 patients with Stage 3 or 4 melanoma that had spread to a lymph node and who faced a high risk of recurrence, was sponsored by the two drug companies.

The trial showed patients seeing a 44% reduction in the risk of recurrence or death compared to those who used only Keytruda. 

St├ęphane Bancel
St├ęphane Bancel, Moderna's chief executive, is quoted as saying that the findings "are highly encouraging…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." 

Frances S. Collins, ex-director of the National Institutes of Health, said recently that the development of vaccines for cancer using mRNA may be one of the great medical advances to come out of the pandemic, the Post story states. 

"Cancer vaccines have had a lot of promise," it quotes him as saying, "but they have been really not quite taking hold because the cycle time was just too long…Now with mRNAs, you can do that so much more quickly."

It should be noted that no mRNA cancer vaccine has yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the story concludes, in 2018, the last year for which figures are available, "83,996 people were diagnosed with melanoma in the United States and 8,199 died."

Information on other clinical trials can be found in Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer, a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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