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Moderna, Merck Report on Promising Melanoma Vaccine

Companies announced that the vaccine performed well in a small study of patients who had the cancer surgically removed

By Physician's Briefing Staff | December 13, 2022

Two pharmaceutical companies said Tuesday that they have made notable progress with a vaccine that could prevent melanoma.

Moderna, well known for its work on the COVID-19 vaccine, and Merck, which makes the cancer immunotherapy drug Keytruda (pembrolizumab), announced that the combination performed well in a small study of patients who had the cancer surgically removed.

"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," Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a company news release. "We will begin additional studies in melanoma and other forms of cancer with the goal of bringing truly individualized cancer treatments to patients."

Study participants experienced a statistically significant improvement in survival with a combination of the vaccine and Keytruda before the cancer returned in patients who had advanced melanoma.

"These positive findings represent an important milestone in our collaboration with Moderna," said Dean Li, M.D., president of Merck Research Laboratories. "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."

Researchers compared the combination of the vaccine and Keytruda to Keytruda alone in a midstage clinical trial that included 157 patients. Those who had the combination had a 44 percent reduction in the risk for death or the cancer returning when compared with Keytruda alone. Researchers administered the treatments for about a year in both groups, with exceptions made for severe side effects or disease return.

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