New skin cancer vaccine could prevent melanoma from coming back

If caught early, the highly-aggressive form of skin cancer known as melanoma is highly curable, with a 5-year survival rate of 92 percent. There is always a risk of it coming back, but that risk could be massively reduced thanks to a new skin cancer vaccine.

The vaccine was developed by the New Jersey-based biotech company Celldex Therapeutics and is designed to prevent skin cancer from returning by targeting immune cells (called dendritic cells) to trigger antibodies and T cells, which are then primed to fight melanoma should it come back.

To test the vaccine, researchers from Mount Sinai conducted a clinical trial featuring 60 patients with stage 2 or 3 melanoma removed through surgery. FreeThink reports that half the participants got four doses of the skin cancer vaccine over four months, while the other half got the same vaccine, plus two ingredients they believed would make it more powerful: a molecule called Flt3L and an immunostimulant.

The researchers found that the vaccine with extra ingredients dramatically boosted the immune response, essentially doubling the vaccine’s effect. “These positive results are significant not only for improving cancer vaccines but also potentially for application to other vaccine platforms,” researcher Steven Fling said in a press release.

Moving forward, the researchers will conduct larger phase 3 trials to further test the vaccine. The researchers will also follow up with trial participants to see how many in each group experience melanoma recurrence in the coming years, which will provide a better understanding of the boosted vaccine’s ability to prevent skin cancer.

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