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ORLANDO, Fla. — For years, early experimental results offered hope that scientists might be able to offer cancer vaccines tailored to an individual’s tumor as a treatment. On Sunday, a personalized mRNA cancer vaccine developed by Moderna and Merck provided the first evidence that the approach can truly offer clinical benefit to patients.

The vaccine, called a neoantigen cancer vaccine, greatly reduced a patient’s risk of relapse when combined with the Merck immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab (Keytruda) than when the drug was given alone.


“Neoantigen vaccines are very promising,” said Jeffrey Weber, a medical oncologist and deputy director at the Perlmutter Cancer Center at New York University and a lead author on the study. “Early trials showed they were well-tolerated and could elicit some immune response, but the only way to tell if it’s going to work is a randomized study.”

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