Study hints at promise of mRNA technology for cancer treatment

Moderna and Merck scored promising results from their joint project to test the mRNA-based technology used in COVID-19 vaccines combined with cancer drug Keytruda, the two companies said Dec. 13. 

Two months after Merck said it would pay Moderna $250 million to co-develop this collaboration, a phase 2b trial found a 44 percent reduction in the risk of recurrence or death in stage 3/4 melanoma patients compared to Keytruda on its own. Serious side effects occurred in 14.4 percent of the combined-therapy group versus 10 percent in Keytruda-only patients. 

"Today's results are highly encouraging for the field of cancer treatment," Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a statement. "mRNA has been transformative for COVID-19, and now, for the first time ever, we have demonstrated the potential for mRNA to have an impact on outcomes in a randomized clinical trial in melanoma."

A phase 3 trial to further test the mRNA-based technology and Keytruda among patients with skin cancer is planned to start in 2023, according to the drugmakers.

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