Moderna announced on Wednesday the promising results of its experimental cancer vaccine during an early-stage clinical trial.

According to a The Motley report, the said treatment with the messenger RNA-based candidate, mRNA-4157, combined with Keytruda, had managed to shrink tumors in five out of 10 patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). 

The report noted that two of these patients achieved complete remission.

Keytruda is a successful cancer immunotherapy from Merck. It aims to treat patients with HNSCC as a single agent, according to the  report.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Keytruda to treat advanced-stage HNSCC patients as a monotherapy following its ability to shrink tumors for 16 percent of patients.

Five percent of these patients reached complete remission. However, the treatment with the combination of Keytruda did not shrink any tumors in a group of 17 patients with advanced-stage colon cancer not triggered by microsatellite instability of mutations.

Keytruda is allowed to be used on patients with certain types of mutations. However, it has not succeeded among the larger population of colon cancer patients.

Keytruda was approved in 2014, but hardly a month has passed by without at least one clinical-stage biotech company showing impressive early-response rate data produced by their experimental treatments.

Stephen Hoge, M.D., president of Moderna, said they were encouraged by these interim data from their personalized cancer vaccine program. Hoge noted that this program involves designing and creating a unique vaccine for patients' specific tumor.

"This study demonstrates the ability of Moderna's mRNA personalized cancer vaccine to elicit clinical activity when given in combination with pembrolizumab," Hoge said in a Business Wire report.

Hoge also welcomed Dr. Praveen Aanur to Moderna, saying he looks forward to working closely with him in the oncology therapeutic area.

Aanur is joining Moderna from Bristol-Myers Squibb, where he was responsible for multiple regulatory submissions across the firms' immuno-oncology portfolio. 

Moderna Immuno-Oncology Programs

The American pharmaceutical company's oncology programs are presently focusing on developing cancer vaccines and intratumoral immuno-oncology therapies. 

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Moderna is currently developing these potential mRNA treatments with collaborators Merck and AstraZeneca.

Moderna has five programs in development as of the moment. It includes two programs in Phase 2 trials. 

Aside from these programs, Moderna is also developing a COVID-19 vaccine should it get FDA approval.

COVID-19 Vaccine

Moderna said Wednesday that its study had gained over 53 infections, which allows a preliminary analysis of the COVID-19 vaccine's effectiveness to start.

The firm said that the preliminary data on Moderna's study is eyeing submission to the monitoring board.

The board will decide whether the vaccine is effective, does not work, or if the trial should continue as the results are inconclusive. 

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Drew Weissman, an immunologist and an mRNA expert at the University of Pennsylvania, said he expects similar results with Pfizer, according to an Aljazeera report.

Weissman said that it is hard to imagine that it would be much different. Weissman helped develop key modifications used in RNA vaccines.

His lab also receives research funding from BioNTech SE, which is the company partnering with Pfizer on its vaccine.