"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

“Personalized” cancer vaccines enter phase III testing

April 17, 2023 – Last weekend, researchers published the outcomes of clinical trials for a “major breakthrough” that will enable personalized cancer treatment.

In an early study, personalized cancer vaccines reduced the chance of relapse or death by 44% in individuals with late-stage melanoma, a deadly skin cancer.

The results were presented on Sunday on the American Association for Cancer Research conference in Orlando, Florida.

The treatment approach uses mRNA vaccine technology, popularized by its use in COVID-19 vaccines. The personalized cancer shots are created using information from a person's tumor. The vaccines for those involved within the melanoma study were customized in 34 ways in which were specific to an individual's tumor.

Having advanced cancer is vital for developing personalized vaccines because smaller, early-stage tumors may not have enough tissue for scientists to extract the data they need, the researchers said.

The study involved 157 individuals with stage III or IV melanoma who had their melanoma surgically faraway from the lymph nodes or other organs. The study participants were randomly assigned to one in every of two groups. One group received a current standard treatment called Keytruda. The second group received the usual treatment of Keytruda plus the brand new personalized vaccine. In each groups, participants received Keytruda 18 times, each 3 weeks apart. The vaccine group received the vaccine nine times, also 3 weeks apart.

Of those within the vaccine group, 78.6% were alive and had not had their cancer relapse 18 months later. In the group that received only Keytruda, 62.2% were alive and had not had their cancer relapse. Cancer researchers call this figure “relapse-free survival.”

The short follow-up period and small variety of study participants were seen as limits to completely understanding the treatment's effectiveness. In addition, researchers said they were hampered by a shortage of cancer vaccines in the course of the pandemic. A bigger Phase III trial will begin soon, they said. The study was funded by Moderna Inc. and Merck.

The latest personalized vaccination approach isn't limited to skin cancer, said one in every of the researchers.

“The relevance of this study lies in the implications it could have not only for melanoma patients but also for other types of cancer,” said researcher and Harvard Medical School associate professor Ryan Sullivan, MD, in a opinion“From a general cancer therapy perspective, this could be a major breakthrough.”

Already aware of the brand new treatment's potential, the FDA designated it a “breakthrough therapy” in February, which is able to speed up regulatory review once firms submit data for review.