HARTFORD, Conn. — A team of researchers at Yale Cancer Center are participating in a Moderna clinical trial that combines an immunotherapy drug known as Keytruda or Pembrolizumab with a customized vaccine created with mRNA technology compared to Keytruda alone.
Dr. Thuy Tran and a team of researchers at Yale are studying the treatment in patients who have Melanoma and are at high risk for reoccurrence.
“This technology allows us to really customize the vaccine payload to an individual's unique tumor profile,” said Tran. “No two individuals’ vaccines on the clinical trial are the same.”
Researchers use antigens and proteins from the patient’s tumor to customize the vaccine.
Out of the clinical data recorded so far, the combination of Keytruda and a customized mRNA vaccine reduced the risk of reoccurrence in patients by 44%.
For years health experts have been trying to find ways to use the body’s immune system to fight certain diseases like cancer to provide additional treatments that are less toxic to the patient. mRNA gained notoriety for using it in COVID-19 vaccines, but doctors say this has been studied for decades.
“mRNA vaccines have been under investigation for use in for cancer vaccines for a long time, at least 20 years. They're not a new technology, although everyone's heard of them recently in the setting of the COVID vaccines,” said Dr. Adam Boruchov, Medical Director for Smilow Cancer Hospital Care Center at Saint Francis Hospital.
Tran said this clinical trial predates the COVID-19 Pandemic and all efforts shifted to produce COVID-19 vaccines.
“It was nice that the technology existed prior to COVID and thus enabled the drug companies to help produce and synthesized COVID vaccines faster,” said Tran.
mRNA is also being studied in other types of cancer treatment.
“The customized vaccine to these individuals, pancreatic cancers were also effective in early results as well. So just really promising early data and really can be applied to any type of cancer as long as you have the appropriate antigens or sequencing markers to help to stimulate the immune system,” said Tran.
Additional data from this trial will be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting in June.
The clinical trial will move into phase three this fall before being submitted for FDA approval.
Jake Garcia is a multimedia journalist for FOX61 News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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