British man tests first personalised melanoma vaccine

  • By Michelle Roberts
  • Digital Health Editor

Legend, Steve Young, 52, is one of the British patients enrolled in the trial

A major trial of the world’s first “personalized” mRNA vaccine against the deadliest form of skin cancer – melanoma – is currently underway in the UK.

Steve Young, 52, from Stevenage, Herts, who had a melanoma removed from his scalp last August, is one of the first patients to try the vaccine.

It is designed to help one’s immune system recognize and eliminate any remaining cancer cells.

And I hope that means his cancer won’t come back.

The vaccine, mRNA-4157 (V940), uses the same technology as current Covid vaccines and is being tested in late-stage Phase III trials.

Doctors at University College London Hospitals (UCLH) give it in combination with another medicine, pembrolizumab or Keytruda, which also helps the immune system kill cancer cells.

Genetic signature

The combination treatment, made by Moderna and Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD), is not yet routinely available on the NHS, outside of clinical trials.

Experts in other countries, including Australia, are also trying it on patients, to gather more evidence and see if it should be rolled out more widely.

The vaccine is personalized, meaning its composition is changed based on each patient.

It is created to match the unique genetic signature of the patient’s tumor and works by causing the body to make proteins or antibodies that attack markers or antigens found only on those cancer cells.

“Built to measure”

UCLH researcher Dr Heather Shaw said the vaccine had the potential to cure people with melanoma and was being tested in other cancers – lung, bladder and kidney tumors.

“It’s one of the most exciting things we’ve seen in a very long time,” she said.

“It’s absolutely tailor-made for the patient; you couldn’t give it to the next patient in the queue, because you wouldn’t expect it to work.

“It’s really personalized.

“These things are extremely technical and finely generated for the patient.”

‘Really excited’

The UK part of the international trial aims to recruit at least 60 to 70 patients across eight centers including London, Manchester, Edinburgh and Leeds.

Mr Young is undergoing treatment in London.

He said: “I’m really, really excited.

“This is my best chance to stop cancer in its tracks.”

He said hearing about the study “really set off my geek radar.”

Mr Young had a bump on his scalp for many years before realizing the growth was cancer.

He said the diagnosis came as a “massive shock”.

“I literally spent two weeks thinking ‘this is it,'” he said.

“My dad died of emphysema when he was 57 and I actually thought, ‘I’m going to die younger than my dad’.”

Common signs of melanoma include:

  • a new abnormal mole
  • an existing mole that appears to be growing or changing
  • a change from a previous patch of normal skin

The earlier a melanoma is detected, the easier it is to treat and the more likely the treatment is to be successful.

Phase II trial data, released in December, found that people with high-risk severe melanomas who received the vaccine along with Keytruda immunotherapy were nearly half as likely (49%) to die or see their cancer return after three years than those who had been. given only the medicine.

Dr Shaw said there was real hope the therapy could be a “game changer”, especially as it appeared to have “relatively tolerable side effects”.

These include fatigue and arm pain when the vaccine was administered, she said, adding that for the majority of patients it seemed no worse than having a flu or flu shot. Covid.

News Source :
Gn Health

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