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Moderna, Merck shares rise as combined melanoma therapy shows improved survival rate

Published 06/03/2024, 11:17 AM
Updated 06/03/2024, 11:19 AM
© Reuters Moderna, Merck shares rise as combined melanoma therapy shows improved survival rate

Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA) and Merck (MRK) have released new, more encouraging three-year data on their experimental vaccine for the most deadly form of skin cancer.

When combined with Merck’s Keytruda, the jab has shown improved survival rates and long-lasting efficacy in a midstage study, which they presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago.

The vaccine, a critical component of Moderna’s pipeline, has bolstered investor confidence following a challenging period last year when demand for its Covid vaccine, currently its only commercially available product, significantly declined. The new data builds on initial results announced by the companies in December.

Shares in Moderna and Merck rose more than 5% and 2% on Monday, respectively.

In the latest findings, nearly 75% of patients receiving the combination treatment were alive without any signs of cancer recurrence at the 2½-year mark, compared to 55.6% of patients treated with Keytruda alone. This progress was consistent across different patient subgroups, irrespective of tumor mutation levels or the presence of the protein PD-L1, which regulates immune responses.

Dr. Kyle Holen, Moderna’s head of development, therapeutics, and oncology, stressed the shot's potential to treat a “broad range” of melanoma patients. The overall survival rate for patients on the combination therapy was 96% after 2½ years, compared to 90.2% for those on Keytruda alone.

As previously announced by the companies, patients with severe melanoma who received the combination therapy were 49% less likely to die or experience a recurrence than those who took Keytruda alone over approximately three years. Moreover, the combination therapy reduced the risk of melanoma spreading to other parts of the body or causing death by 62%.

The most common side effects reported were fatigue, pain at the injection site, and chills, most of which were mild. Patients on the combination therapy experienced slightly higher immune-related side effects compared to those on Keytruda alone.

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