For Marie-Dominique Galibert, member of the national scientific council of the League against cancer, “we can be enthusiastic but we are not there yet”.
Should we already be pleased with the positive preliminary results of Moderna and Merck for their vaccine against skin cancer? US laboratories announced on Tuesday encouraging results for this messenger RNA vaccine under development, when taken with the anti-cancer treatment Keytruda.
In a trial of more than 150 people with melanoma, taking the vaccine along with the drug Keytruda reduced the risk of the cancer coming back or dying by 44%, compared to people only treated with the drug Keytruda. the cancer drug, according to the results announced on Tuesday. These have not yet been the subject of a scientific publication and have therefore not been peer-reviewed.
A vaccine “not for tomorrow”
“Obviously, this 44% is interesting, but you also have to look at the risk-benefit, with the risk of side effects”, explains to BFMTV.com Marie-Dominique Galibert, member of the national scientific council of the League against cancer. cancer and genetic researcher specializing in messenger RNA and melanoma.
“For me, a scientist, these are advances of interest. But the vaccine is not for tomorrow”, she underlines: “we can be enthusiastic but we are not there yet”.
The laboratories want to launch phase 3 trials in 2023, i.e. on a larger number of patients. The marketing of the product, if the trials are successful, should therefore not happen for a few years.
Messenger RNA against cancer
Moderna had already made a sensational burst into the pharmaceutical market by being one of the first, with Pfizer-BioNTech, to offer a vaccine against Covid-19 using messenger RNA. Where a vaccine traditionally relies on the administration of an attenuated or inactivated infectious agent, this technology creates a “copy” of the genome of the targeted virus: “the idea is to let our cells themselves manufacture the component against which our organism will learn to defend itself”, explains the public medical research institute Inserm on its site.
“In the context of cancers, cancer cells generate mutations at the level of the genome, which produces marks, which will be recognized by the immune system as being ‘non-self’, like the viral particles of viruses”, develops Marie-Dominique Galibert.
These proteins, recognized as foreign, are those targeted by the messenger RNA, thanks to which “the immune system will be made active”, according to Professor Galibert.
“But we are in a balance where often, in oncology, the immune system can be slowed down. Hence the idea of associating Keytruda”, she notes.
Indeed, Keytruda is an immunotherapy treatment, a treatment that serves to stimulate the body’s immune defenses against cancer cells.
Perspectives for other cancers
For Professor Galibert, if the results of Merck and Moderna are conclusive, “this will pave the way for therapeutic vaccination in the first line”.
This vaccine would then be the first treatment given against melanoma, where surgery is generally prioritized at present. For this US lab trial, patients had undergone an operation to remove the tumor before receiving the treatment – nine doses of vaccine. Adapted, it could also be used against other cancers, such as lung cancer, believes Marie-Dominique Galibert.
Cancer is the leading cause of death in men and the second in women in France, behind cardiovascular disease, according to Public Health France. Skin melanoma is the “cancer for which the number of new cases per year (incidence) is increasing the most”, notes the National Cancer Institute on its site, with an incidence up 4% in men and 2.7% for women over the past 30 years.
Source: BFM TV