In a world-first, an early phase trial of an mRNA personalised cancer vaccine has shown promising results for preventing melanoma recurrence in patients with resected high-risk melanoma (stage III and IV).

The Phase 2 Moderna and Merck trial involved 157 melanoma patients in Australia and the USA whose melanoma had been surgically removed but who were at very high risk of it recurring. Professor Georgina Long AO, Melanoma Institute Australia Co-Medical Director and University of Sydney professor, who was involved in the Australian arm of the clinical trial, described the early results as potentially ‘the second penicillin moment in cancer treatment’.

‘This is the first trial to demonstrate that we can use both the mRNA technology and a personalised approach to cancer to improve outcomes for patients with cancer,’ Professor Long said. ‘We found when we added a personalised vaccine – so an mRNA very similar to the COVID vaccine technology but based around the patient’s personal melanoma – the chance of recurrence was reduced by 44 percent. We now need to confirm results in a larger trial which we are hoping to start early next year.’

Australia has the highest melanoma rates in the world, with one person diagnosed every 30 minutes and one person dying every 6 hours from the disease. It is also the most common cancer in 20-39-yr-old Australians.

Professor Long said sun safety was still vital to prevent melanoma, with this mRNA personalised vaccine being used to stop recurrence in patients who already had advanced disease.

Note to melanoma patients 

Once open, trial details will be on the website and on the Current Clinical Trials page of this website.

Patients can then discuss their eligibility with their doctor.