Melanoma vaccine, Ascierto: “Towards a revolution in anti-cancer treatments”

“It may pave the way for the use of curative and personalized messenger mRNA vaccines against all tumors”

The first vaccine for the treatment of melanoma, injected on an experimental basis at the Pascale Institute in Naples, “represents an important step in the history of oncological treatments. It may pave the way for the use of curative and personalized messenger mRNA vaccines against all tumors, together with classical immunotherapy. It is certainly an exciting moment but we remain cautious while awaiting the results”. Paolo Ascierto, director of the Department of skin tumors, experimental oncological immunotherapy and innovative therapies of the National Cancer Institute Irccs Fondazione Pascale of Naples, where today the first Italian patient received a dose of the experimental mRNA anti-cancer vaccine for the treatment of melanoma.

There is a lot of attention paid to this study, explains Ascierto, because Preliminary Phase II efficacy data, reported last year at major industry conferences, was exciting“. This therapeutic vaccine is indicated “for people who have already had melanoma removal surgery, high-risk patients or patients with resected metastases. It is a curative therapy”. On melanoma, one of the most aggressive skin tumors, “many steps forward have already been made: today, among the operated patients, 70% are alive after 7 and a half years, compared to 50% just a few years ago. The hope – he continues – is that the vaccine will increase this percentage further. The study we are doing will tell us how much. For this reason there is a lot of waiting. Even just 10% more would be a lot in terms of suffering and lives saved.”

The study envisages that the patients involved will begin to undergo immunotherapy “in the meantime – continues Ascierto – the vaccine is prepared starting from the patient’s melanoma, therefore it is also personalized. DNA is extracted from the cells, 34 neo-antigens are selected, which are the mutated proteins of melanoma. And the messenger mRna which is the vaccine is built on this”, concludes Ascierto underlining that “if this study is positive, a new chapter will open on therapies against all tumors, with therapeutic vaccination and immunotherapy together” .