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Moderna And Merck Say New Experimental Vaccine Is Improving Survival Rates In Patients With Severe Skin Cancer 

Biopharmaceutical company Merck and mRNA vaccine developer Moderna are currently creating a new vaccine to help improve the quality of life and survival rates in individuals dealing with the most deadly form of skin cancer. The vaccine is showing positive results when combined with the therapy treatment known as Keytruda. 

Moderna and Merck will be presenting the current data they’ve collected over the past three years at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago. The newer data showed that around 75% of patients with deadly skin care who took the combination regimen were alive without any signs or symptoms of their cancer returning at the 2.5 year mark. 

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55.6% of patients had the same results when they just received the Keytruda therapy alone. 

“That benefit was observed across different subgroups of patients, regardless of whether they had tumors with a large number of mutations or whether they had enough of a protein — called PD-L1 — that helps keep the body’s immune responses in check,” wrote Annika Constantino for CNBC

“The data reflects the potential for the shot to help treat a broad range of melanoma patients,” Dr. Kyle Holen, Moderna’s head of development, therapeutics and oncology, said.

Patients who took the vaccine with Keytruda showed an overall survival rate that hit 96% after 2.5 years, those who just took Keytruda had a rate of 90.2%. 

“Patients with severe forms of the cancer, known as melanoma, who received the combination were 49% less likely to die or have their cancer return than those who took Keytruda alone after roughly three years. The combination also slashed the risk of melanoma spreading to other parts of the body, or death, by 62%,” Constantino wrote

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Fatigue, injection site pain, and chills were the most common side effects associated with the vaccine, and the majority of those side effects were mild, according to the data

The vaccine uses the same mRNA technology that Moderna utilized for their Covid-19 vaccine. The vaccine is custom-built utilizing the patient’s tumors after surgical removal. The shot is like many other vaccines in that it works to train the immune system to identify and attack specific mutations within cancer cells. 

“Moderna is excited about working to reduce the time between the initial analysis of a tumor and when a patient gets injected with the shot,” CEO Stephane Bancel said in an interview with CNBC.   

“Moderna also plans to file for accelerated approval with the FDA. The process allows for expedited approvals of drugs for serious conditions that fill an unmet medical need,” Bancel said. 

“Melanoma is responsible for the large majority of skin cancer deaths, and the rate of melanoma has increased rapidly over the past few decades” according to the American Cancer Society.

The organization states “about 100,000 people will be diagnosed with melanoma in the U.S. this year and nearly 8,000 people are expected to die from the disease.”