Moderna and Merck's Keytruda vaccine delays recurrence of deadly skin cancer after three years, data says

These results are based on medium-sized trial data the companies released earlier this year that showed the combination’s effectiveness in the same 157 patients over a shorter period of time. After about two years, the vaccine and Keytruda reduced the risk of death or recurrence in melanoma patients by 44% and the risk of the cancer spreading in the body by 65%, according to previous study data.

According to Thursday’s data, the most common side effects of the vaccine after three years were fatigue, pain at the injection site and chills.

The new results suggest that the cancer shot used alongside immunotherapy continues to provide significant health benefits to melanoma patients even after prolonged treatment. The two drugmakers continue to study the combination as a late-stage treatment for melanoma, which began in July.

The vaccine, which uses the same mRNA technology as Moderna’s Covid vaccine, is tailored based on an analysis of a patient’s tumors after surgical removal. The shot is designed to train the immune system to recognize and attack certain mutations in cancer cells.

Merck’s Keytruda, approved to treat melanoma and other cancers, belongs to a class of widely used immunotherapies known as checkpoint inhibitors, which are designed to disable a specific protein that helps cancer evade the immune system.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted breakthrough therapy designation to the cancer vaccine used to treat melanoma in February, speeding development and review of treatments for serious and life-threatening diseases.

Moderna and Merck are also testing the Keytruda vaccine against other types of tumors. On Monday, drugmakers began a late-stage trial of the combination to treat non-small cell lung cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, melanoma accounts for the vast majority of skin cancer deaths. According to the organization, melanoma rates have risen rapidly over the past few decades.

According to the American Cancer Society, about 100,000 people will be diagnosed with melanoma in the United States this year and nearly 8,000 people are expected to die from the disease.

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