Melanoma vaccine trial shows ‘highly encouraging’ results in improving patient outcomes

Dec 15, 2022
Source: Getty Images.

A world first trial of a personalised cancer vaccine has shown encouraging results in reducing the risk of melanoma reoccurrence and death among patients who had their skin cancer surgically removed.

Biotech company, Moderna, conducted the clinical trial which involved 157 patients with stage three or stage four melanoma whose tumours were removed by surgery.

The study, which was conducted in both Australian and the United States, examined patients who were at high risk of their cancer returning.

The clinical trial found that when the experimental mRNA vaccine was combined with immunotherapy the risk of cancer returning and death from melanoma was reduced by 44 per cent.

Moderna’s Chief Executive Officer, Stéphane Bancel said the “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,” Bancel said.

“We will begin additional studies in melanoma and other forms of cancer with the goal of bringing truly individualized cancer treatments to patients. We look forward to publishing the full data set and sharing the results at an upcoming oncology medical conference, as well as with health authorities.”

Principal investigator of the study and Deputy Director of the Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Langone, Jeffrey S. Weber, MD, PhD said the results were “exciting for the field”.

“These data provide the first evidence that we can improve on the rates of recurrence-free survival achieved by PD-1 blockade in resected high-risk melanoma,” Weber said.

“These findings also provide the first randomized evidence that a personalized neoantigen approach may be beneficial in melanoma.”

Professor Georgina Long AO, who was involved in the Australian portion of the trial, called the results “the second penicillin moment in cancer treatment”.

“This is the first trial to demonstrate that we can use both the mRNA technology and a personalised approach to cancer to improve outcomes for patients with cancer,” Long said.

“We found when we added a personalised vaccine – so an mRNA very similar to the COVID vaccine technology but based around the patient’s personal melanoma – the chance of recurrence was reduced by 44 percent.”

Despite the promising results, Long said she hoped the results could be confirmed “in a larger trial which we are hoping to start early next year”.

Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world, with approximately two in three Australians expected to be diagnosed with skin cancer during their lifetime.

In addition, it is estimated that almost twice as many men as women will die from melanoma this year alone, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

As the world awaits confirmation of the vaccine’s results, it remains important to not only adopt SunSmart habits but to also perform regular self-checks to remain vigilant for any irregularities.

Starts at 60 recently spoke to Queensland Cancer Council‘s Cancer Support and Information General Manager, Gemma Lock to determine what to look out for when performing skin checks and the importance of regular self-checking.

Lock explained that when it comes to preventing skin cancer the public should be “checking their skin regularly and becoming familiar with what is normal for them”.

“Skin cancers rarely hurt and are more frequently seen than felt. Things to look out for include, new moles, freckles or lumps, or any changes to existing spots including changes in size, shape or colour as well as any spots with sores that don’t heal over 4-6 weeks,” she said.

Lock urged people to “speak to their GP as soon as possible” if they find an irregularity on their skin but not to panic if they notice something unusual.

“Although we may notice one or more skin changes, it does not necessarily mean that we have skin cancer. However, it is important that a visit to the GP is made to have them investigated further. Your GP can discuss skin cancer risk and advise on the need for medical checks or self-examination,” she said.

“It can be difficult to know whether something on your skin is a harmless mole or normal sun damage, or a sign of cancer. When in doubt, speak to your GP.

“The sooner a skin cancer is identified and treated, the better your chance of avoiding surgery or, in the case of a serious melanoma or other skin cancer.”

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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