NNUH part of world-first skin cancer vaccine

Our hospital is taking part in a world-first to develop a personalised vaccine against the deadliest form of skin cancer.

The NNUH oncology department is one of eight in the UK trialling a personalised mRNA vaccine which is designed to recognise and wipe out any remaining cancerous cells for patients with melanoma.

The vaccine uses the same technology as current Covid vaccines and is being tested in final-stage Phase III trials. Two patients have so far been recruited onto the study at NNUH.

The treatment, made by Moderna and Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD), is not yet available routinely on the NHS outside of clinical trials.

The vaccine is created to match the unique genetic signature of a patient’s tumour and works by instructing the body to make proteins or antibodies that attack markers or antigens found only on those cancer cells. In the trial, it is combined with the standard-of-care immunotherapy drug, Pembrolizumab.

Consultant Oncologist Dr Jenny Nobes, who is the Principal Investigator on the trial at NNUH, said: “We are delighted to be taking part in this exciting research to deliver personalised cancer vaccines. It is very much the future of cancer care to develop personalised treatment for the individual patient. The success of this trial depends very much on multidisciplinary teamwork, and so I am very grateful to my skin cancer team colleagues in plastics and dermatology for their collaboration.”

The UK part of the international trial aims to recruit at around 70 cancer patients who have had their high-risk melanoma surgically removed in the last 12 weeks to ensure the best result.

The UK lead investigator Dr Heather Shaw said the jab had the potential to be a “gamechanger” to improve the chance of cure for people with melanoma and was also being tested on other cancers – lung, bladder and kidney tumours.

A new mole or a change in an existing mole may be signs of melanoma. Melanomas can appear anywhere on the body, but they’re more common in areas that are often exposed to the sun.

Contact your GP if:

  • you have a mole that’s changed size, shape or colour
  • you have a mole that’s painful or itchy
  • you have a mole that’s inflamed, bleeding or crusty
  • you have a new or unusual mark on your skin that has not gone away after a few weeks
  • you have a dark area under a nail that has not been caused by an injury

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