Moderna Inches Nearer to Successful Cancer Vaccine

The company announced positive results in an early-stage trial of the individualized cancer vaccine it developed with Merck.

Photo of a doctor examining vaccine test tubes
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch via Pexels

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Moderna may just have another shot at glory.

On Tuesday, the ascendant biopharma player announced positive results in an early-stage trial of the individualized cancer vaccine it developed with Merck. The news sent its share price soaring to a nearly three-month high.

Jab Gab

Moderna has long touted that the mRNA vaccine technology it helped revolutionize during the global dash to create a coronavirus vaccine could be repurposed for a variety of medical uses. This vaccine, mRNA-4157, uses the method to train the immune system to identify and attack specific mutations in cancer cells.

The early-stage trial, conducted on patients already prescribed Merck’s Keytruda to treat certain types of head and neck cancer, produced some positive results — and hinted at an even brighter future for the vaccine:

  • Together, the two treatments showed a strong promise of extending survival for cancer patients, versus treatment featuring just Keytruda alone. 
  • In a note published Tuesday, Jefferies analyst Michael Yee wrote “The data continue to validate the individualized therapy platform and suggests it could potentially work in indications outside melanoma,” which mRNA-4157 had previously shown promise in treating in a separate trial.

Bread and Butter: Moderna isn’t forgetting who brought it to the dance. Late in March, the company announced the latest version of its Covid-19 vaccine, which lasts longer while refrigerated and requires a lower dose compared with previous versions. Meanwhile, fellow pandemic-era darling Pfizer announced positive final-stage trial results for Abrysvo, its RSV vaccine, clearing the way for FDA approval for US adults under 60. It’s already been approved for adults 60 and older. And the potential is huge: Bloomberg Intelligence estimates the adult RSV vaccine market could hit $11 billion by 2032. Remember to wash your hands like we all learned.

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