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Study Demonstrates mRNA Vaccine for Melanoma Lowers Relapse after Therapy

Researchers confirm that a personalized mRNA cancer vaccine amalgamated with immunotherapy slices the recurrence risk by nearly 50%.

The experiment utilized an individualized vaccine that utilized mRNA technology to target specific mutations found only in a patient's cancer cells, without affecting the healthy cells in the body. All participants in the trial received the immunotherapy drug Keytruda (pembrolizumab), the standard of care for high-risk patients with melanoma. Additionally, Two-thirds of them also received the vaccine.

The results of the phase 2 trial were presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, which showed that combining the vaccine and immunotherapy decreased the risk of recurrence by nearly half.

To test the vaccine's effectiveness, the international team of researchers enrolled 157 melanoma patients (with surgically removed tumors and at high risk of recurrence). Fifty patients obtained only the immunotherapy drug, while 107 got the added personalized vaccination.

Cancer evades the immune system by fooling the body into thinking the threat is over. The other form is by bypassing being killed through mutations so the immune system's soldiers quit recognizing it as a threat. That's where the personalized mRNA vaccine has the role. After removing the patient's tumor, doctors identify proteins specific to that person's tumor and no other cells in the body.

In the trial, 40% of the patients who obtained only the immunotherapy drug experienced cancer recurrence during the two-year follow-up, contrasting with only 22.4% of patients who got the medication plus the vaccine.

The researchers expect the phase 3 trial to launch this summer to reveal similar results. With follow-up and monitoring, it could take nearly two years to register the data with the Food and Drug Administration and three years for the vaccine combination to get approval for use in patients.

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