Skin cancer patients may hopefully be able to reduce their chances of a melanoma relapse according to the findings of a trial for a new vaccine.
A new skin cancer vaccine trialled recently by the National Cancer Institute revealed that it was successful in almost halving the risk of death or relapse in patients who had the deadliest form of melanoma and were in the process of receiving immunotherapy.
There are currently 1.3 million people with a melanoma diagnosis in America. Scientists predict that skin cancer will become the second most common type in the US by 2040.
Skin cancer – a potentially deadly disease
Skin cancer is a disease of skin cells. Nine out of every ten cases of skin cancer come from UV rays from the sun or tanning beds.
Damage caused by overexposure to UV rays that damages skin cells can be repaired over time. However, it can also sometimes lead to skin cancer developing in people in later life.
Regarding skin cancer, early detection is crucial; if detected early, up to 90% of cases are entirely curable. By being sun-smart and taking simple precautions to reduce your risk of overexposure to UV rays, you can significantly reduce your chances of developing skin cancer.
It is essential also to get to know your skin. Check it every month for changes, and always visit your doctor if you’re worried.
Skin cancer vaccine trial – had very encouraging results
The Skin cancer vaccine trial the National Cancer Institute conducted involved men and women who had surgery to remove melanoma from lymph nodes or other organs and were statistically at higher risk of the disease returning.
In February, the US Food and Drug Administration granted the “Breakthrough Therapy” designation to help speed the mRNA-4157/V940 vaccine pairing with the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab. The vaccine will trigger immune system T cells to attack tumours actively.
“Our phase 2b study shows that a neoantigen mRNA vaccine, when used in combination with pembrolizumab, resulted in prolonged time without recurrence or death compared with pembrolizumab alone,” said senior investigator professor Jeffrey Weber of New York University.
More studies are to confirm findings – more research to come
107 participants were treated with the vaccine and immunotherapy pembrolizumab. As a result, the cancer returned in only 24 patients (22.4%) within two years. This is in comparison with 20 out of 50 (40%) who only received pembrolizumab.
They will require more extensive studies to confirm the findings presented at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting in Orlando. However, the results seem promising.
Phase 3 trials of the combination are already in the works in New York and globally. For more good news, check out our article on a huge step in pancreatic cancer treatment here.