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21st December 2022
Moderna, in conjunction with Merck, has found that the investigational, personalised cancer vaccine, mRNA-4157/V940, combined with pembrolizumab, was more effective than pembrolizumab alone at reducing the risk of death or recurrence in patients with stage III/IV melanoma following complete resection.
Melanoma of the skin is the 17th most common cancer worldwide with 324,635 new cases and 57,043 deaths in 2020. Although patients diagnosed at Stage 1 have an excellent prognosis, this drops significantly as the disease spreads. For example, regional melanoma (stage 3) has a 63.6% 5-year survival and this drops to 22.5% for those with stage 4 (metastatic) disease.
Pembrolizumab (brand name Keytruda) is a human, programmed death receptor-1 (PD-1) therapy and works to enable T cells to invade melanoma anywhere in the body. The drug is already licensed as monotherapy for the treatment of adults and adolescents aged 12 years and older with advanced (unresectable or metastatic) melanoma.
The KEYNOTE-942 study is an on-going phase 2b randomised study designed to assess whether postoperative adjuvant therapy with mRNA-4157/V940 and pembrolizumab improves recurrence free survival (RFS) compared to pembrolizumab alone in participants with complete resection of cutaneous melanoma and a high risk of recurrence. mRNA-4157/V940 is designed to stimulate an immune response by generating a specific T cell action based on the unique mutational signature of a patient’s tumour.
In the trial, and following complete surgical resection, patients were randomised to receive mRNA-4157/V940 (nine total doses of mRNA-4157) and pembrolizumab 200 mg every three weeks up to 18 cycles (for approximately one year) or pembrolizumab alone. The primary endpoint of the trial was recurrence-free survival whereas secondary endpoints include distant metastasis-free survival and safety.
mRNA-4157/V940 preliminary efficacy data
The results are for 157 patients with stage III/IV melanoma. The data show adjuvant mRNA-4157/V940 and pembrolizumab reduced the risk of recurrence or death by 44% (hazard ratio, HR = 0.56, 95% CI 0.31 – 1.08, one-sided p = 0.0266) compared with pembrolizumab alone.
In terms of safety, serious treatment-related adverse events occurred in 14.4% of patients who received the combination treatment compared to 10% with pembrolizumab alone.
Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s Chief Executive Officer, said: ‘Today’s results are highly encouraging for the field of cancer treatment. 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 randomised clinical trial in melanoma.’
The companies plan to discuss the results with regulatory authorities and initiate a Phase 3 study in melanoma patients in 2023.