Moderna’s Skin Cancer Vaccine: How will it Work and when will it Be Used?

The countdown has begun to have an RNA vaccine against cancer. Moderna's vaccine against skin cancer was announced. This is hopeful news for the fight against melanoma, one of the most dangerous and lethal skin cancers.

Doctor with a vaccine in hand

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LatinAmerican Post | Brandon Martínez Salazar

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Leer en español: Vacuna de Moderna contra el cáncer de piel: ¿Cómo funcionará y cuándo se usará?

Pharmaceutical Moderna announced that it is close to having a promising vaccine ready to save millions of lives against melanoma and that possibly by 2030, it will no longer be a problem as it is today. Melanoma is one of the most dangerous types of skin cancer out there. It originates from the skin cells responsible for producing pigments, known as melanocytes, whose lethality is based on the fact that it has a great capacity to spread rapidly to other parts of the body.

The causes of this type of cancer can occur for genetic reasons, exposure to UV rays, fair skin, or excess moles. Likewise, it is considered the fifth most common type of cancer in men and the seventh in women. However, melanoma has caused concern with the number of increases worldwide in recent years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the United States, each year, there are around one hundred thousand cases of this disease.

How will this Promising Vaccine Work?

The Moderna pharmaceutical company assures that its new vaccine is designed with the same RNA messenger technology with which the COVID-19 vaccine was created. Therefore, their job is to identify protein fragments on the surface of cancer cells that are not present in healthy cells and are more likely to trigger an immune response.

To do this, a patient's tumor must be biopsied and its genetic material sequenced to identify mutations that are not present in healthy cells. The resulting mRNA segments will then tell the body how to make these antigens and will be incorporated into personalized vaccines, enabling more specific treatment for each patient. These types of vaccines are called therapeutic because they are applied once the patient has developed the tumor, and they stimulate the immune system's response.

Meanwhile, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the therapy of this innovative vaccine in patients with melanoma last February to accelerate its development.

How are the Clinical Trials of the Vaccine Going?

In January of this year, the pharmaceutical company began showing the results in an advanced phase for the vaccine against the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which resulted in 83.7% effectiveness in preventing cough and fever in adults aged 60 years. Thanks to these promising data, the FDA allowed the international company to test the new cancer vaccine in patients with melanoma.

Therefore, a phase two clinical trial that combines the vaccine with "keytruda" (a drug that is used for the immunotherapy treatment of various types of cancer) showed an exciting advance in which the recurrence of melanoma was reduced by up to 44% in the risk of relapse or death. So, for now, Moderna's vaccine against skin cancer shows remarkable results.

At the moment, an in-depth analysis of these data is expected with the drug regulatory entities to start the phase 3 study in 2023 and expand the research into other types of cancers.

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Expectations About the Vaccine

Paul Burton, Moderna's chief medical officer, said: "What we've learned in recent months is that if you ever thought mRNA was just for infectious disease, or just for Covid, the evidence now is that that's not the case. "That's not the case at all. It can be applied to all sorts of disease areas; cancer, infectious diseases, cardiovascular diseases, autoimmune diseases, and rare diseases. We have studied in those areas, and they all showed tremendous promise."

In this sense, all the vaccines developed with mRNA technology will be available to the public within a decade. This expectation includes a diversity of vaccines with which the pharmaceutical intends to change the world and how many complex diseases can be overcome with a biological.

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