• Monday, February 26, 2024


UK patients first to participate in Moderna cancer vaccine trial

Hands, medical and doctor with patient for vaccine in a clinic for healthcare treatment for prevention. Closeup of a nurse doing a vaccination injection with a needle syringe in a medicare hospital.

By: Kimberly Rodrigues

In a new development in the realm of cancer treatment, the UK has embarked on a pioneering journey by incorporating cancer patients into an international trial of an experimental mRNA therapy, known as mRNA-4359.

This innovative approach, which is currently under evaluation at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, is at the forefront of the phase 1/2 clinical trials sponsored by Moderna, a report in The Economic Times said.

The trial aims to explore the therapy’s safety and its effectiveness against various solid tumours, including melanoma and lung cancer, as outlined on Imperial College’s website.

The essence of this therapy lies in its use of messenger RNA (mRNA) to introduce the immune system to common tumour markers, thereby training it to recognise and destroy cancer cells that display these markers.

This could potentially lead to the eradication of cells that would otherwise inhibit the immune response.

The collaboration between Imperial College and the Moderna-UK Strategic Partnership represents a significant stride in the UK’s efforts to bolster its capabilities in mRNA vaccine production and enhance its readiness for future health crises.

As part of a decade-long agreement with the UK government, Moderna has pledged to invest heavily in research and development, including conducting various clinical trials within the country.

The study’s initial phase is dedicated to assessing the therapy’s safety and how well patients tolerate it, both as a standalone treatment and in combination with pembrolizumab, an immune checkpoint inhibitor.

The researchers are particularly interested in whether this combination can actively shrink tumours in patients with certain lung and skin cancers.

An 81-year-old man from Surrey, who was diagnosed with a form of malignant melanoma resistant to treatment in late October, had the distinction of being the first UK patient to receive mRNA-4359.

The government’s collaboration with various pharmaceutical firms aims to push the boundaries of mRNA-based cancer immunotherapies, with several candidates currently undergoing early-stage clinical evaluations to determine their safety, feasibility, and initial efficacy.

The trial, an open-label, non-randomized Phase 1/2 study, involves all participants receiving identical treatment, with both clinicians and patients fully informed about the therapy being used. This approach fosters greater cooperation and understanding.

Cancer vaccines like mRNA-4359 are at the forefront of immunotherapy, designed to enhance the effectiveness of traditional treatments. These vaccines are divided into personalised therapies, utilising genetic material from a patient’s tumours, and pre-designed therapies targeting specific cancer types.

The Mobilise trial is a groundbreaking effort by Imperial College London and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, conducted at the NIHR Imperial Clinical Research Facility at Hammersmith Hospital.

Although the therapy is still in the preliminary stages of testing, there is optimism that it could emerge as a viable treatment for cancers that are notoriously difficult to manage, assuming its safety and effectiveness are confirmed.

Dr Kyle Holen of Moderna shared with The Telegraph their enthusiasm for the promising early results of the therapy, expressing hope for the ushering in of a new era in cancer treatment.

Similarly, Dr David Pinato and Dr Nichola Awosika from Imperial College London highlighted the innovative nature of mRNA-based cancer immunotherapies like mRNA-4359, which could offer less toxic and more targeted treatment options by harnessing the power of the patient’s immune system against cancer.

The involvement of patients in the Mobilise trial has been lauded as crucial to the advancement of these novel treatments.

Professor Peter Johnson NHS national clinical director for cancer and Victoria Atkins, Secretary of State for Health, and Social Care, have both praised the cutting-edge work being done in the field and the transformative potential of cancer vaccines to save lives and revolutionise cancer therapy.


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