Adding two new elements to the melanoma vaccine could help prevent relapses.
Remember when I spoke to you development of a melanoma vaccine in December 2019? No, right? It seems like a century has passed.
Yet its development continues, with ever better news.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer - luckily, it's also one of the least dangerous, unless it's a melanoma. Although less common, this type of cancer is more aggressive.
It grows and spreads faster and is responsible for the vast majority of skin cancer deaths. If caught and treated early, melanoma is highly treatable, with a 5-year survival rate of 92%, but there is always a risk of it coming back.
Now, a team of researchers has found a way to potentially reduce that risk by doubling the effect of the new melanoma vaccine. The time is near when it can be said that melanoma is 100% curable.
Improving a Melanoma Vaccine
The melanoma vaccine, CDX-1401, was developed by the American biotechnology company Celldex Therapeutics.
It is designed to prevent skin cancer from coming back by targeting immune cells (called dendritic cells) to activate antibodies and T cells, which can then fight the melanoma if it returns.
In a new clinical study, reported in Nature Cancer, the team from Mount Sinai in New Jersey enrolled 60 patients who had stage 2 or 3 melanoma removed by surgery.
Half of the participants received four doses of the melanoma vaccine over four months.
The other half received the vaccine, plus two ingredients: a molecule called Flt3L and an immunostimulant.
The researchers' hypothesis was correct: the extra ingredients boosted the immune response, essentially doubling the effect of the vaccine.
After administering all doses of the melanoma vaccine, the researchers analyzed their levels of T cells and antibodies. They found that the extra ingredients greatly increased the immune response.
The molecule (Flt3L) increased the number of dendritic cells, while the immunostimulant improved the ability of the cells to trigger the production of antibodies and T cells.
"These positive results are significant not only for improving cancer vaccines, but also potentially for application to other vaccine platforms," said the researcher. Steven Fling in a press release .
Preventing relapses of melanoma
While this news is promising, the melanoma vaccine has yet to prove itself in larger Phase 3 studies and gain FDA approval before doctors can administer it outside of a clinical trial.
The stronger immune response could translate into fewer skin cancers, so the researchers will follow study participants to see how many in each group will have melanoma relapses in the years to come.