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Trial begins for groundbreaking personalized skin cancer vaccine in world-first

Trial begins for groundbreaking personalized skin cancer vaccine in world-first

It's a new way to treat cancer that could be a huge success.

In massive medical news, the world's first personalized cancer jab for melanoma is being tested on British patients.

The mRNA jabs are custom-built for each person in a process that takes a few weeks, and the way they work is astounding. The jab essentially tells the body to hunt down cancer cells, preventing the disease from coming back.

A stage 2 trial of the jab, conducted by pharmaceutical companies Moderna and MSD, found that it dramatically reduced the risk of cancer returning in melanoma patients, which is a huge win.

Catherine Falls Commercial
Catherine Falls Commercial

This means that the jab has now progressed to a final phase 3 trial led by the University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH).

Best of all, the jab and the techniques that make it work might not just be limited to melanoma, with testing going on for other types of cancer, too.

Dr Heather Shaw, national co-ordinating investigator for the trial, told the PA news agency: "This is one of the most exciting things we’ve seen in a really long time. This is a really finely honed tool."

She went on to explain that this level of personalization is normally very rare in medicine: "To be able to sit there and say to your patients that you’re offering them something that’s effectively like the Fat Duck at Bray versus McDonald’s - it’s that level of cordon bleu that’s coming to them. These things are hugely technical and finely generated for the patient. The patients are really excited about them."


While the jab works in some ways that are similar to vaccines, in reality the techniques are quite different, helping the body detect the signs that a tumour is present.

Each jab carries coding for up to 34 neoantigens and activates an anti-tumour immune response based on the unique mutations in a patient’s cancer, enabling them to fight back.

The treatment comes in the form of a three-weekly injection for up to nine total doses, along with up to a year of immunotherapy drugs every three weeks.

In the phase 2 trial, patients on the program were almost half (49%) as likely to die or have their cancer come back as those who didn't get the new mRNA jab.

That's a huge change in fortunes, and with around 1,100 people set to be included in the next trial, this could be the start of a new era for some cancer treatment plans.

Jordan Pettitt/PA
Jordan Pettitt/PA

One of the first patients on the trial at UCLH was Steve Young, 52, from Stevenage. He told PA it was a "massive shock" when he was diagnosed with melanoma.

He said when he was told about the trial at UCLH it “really triggered my geek radar”.

He added: “It really piqued my interest. As soon as they mentioned this mRNA technology that was being used to potentially fight cancer, I was just like, ‘it sounds fascinating’ and I still feel the same. I’m really, really excited.

“This is my best chance at stopping the cancer in its tracks.”

Featured Image Credit: Catherine Falls Commercial/urbazon/ Getty