New mRNA Pancreatic Cancer Vaccine Trial Starts Next Phase After Promising Results

Source: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Author: Jim Stallard
Published: July 28, 2023

A revolutionary approach to treating pancreatic cancer is progressing to the next step in making it available to more patients. After encouraging results from a small study, a phase 2 clinical trial has now opened to test the effectiveness of using an mRNA vaccine to fight one of the deadliest cancers.

The new trial is investigating whether this therapeutic vaccine reduces the risk of pancreatic cancer returning after the tumor is removed by surgery. The study will enroll approximately 260 patients at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) and nearly 80 sites around the world.

The trial is open to people newly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer who have not yet had surgery or other treatment (such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or radiation therapy) and who fit other specific criteria.

The mRNA vaccines are custom-made for every person. They use proteins in the pancreatic tumors, called neoantigens, to alert the immune system that the cancer cells are foreign. In this way, the mRNA vaccine trains the body to protect itself against cancer cells.

The phase 2 trial follows promising results from a phase 1 trial involving 16 MSK patients, reported May 10, 2023, in Nature. The vaccine may have prevented or delayed relapses in about half the patients who received it.

“We are excited to move this trial forward into the next phase and test personalized mRNA vaccines in more pancreatic cancer patients,” says MSK pancreatic cancer surgeon-scientist Vinod Balachandran, MD. Dr. Balachandran led the phase 1 trial in collaboration with Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, and BioNTech, an immunotherapy company.

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