Can messenger RNA (mRNA) train the immune system to attack cancers that resist conventional treatments? To find out, researchers at Atlantic Health System are conducting a clinical trial, alongside other centres, to evaluate the efficacy of an experimental mRNA vaccine for patients with late-stage melanoma, the most lethal form of skin cancer. “This trial really resonates with patients,” says oncologist, Eric Whitman, medical director of Atlantic Health’s oncology service line, who is leading the study locally at Morristown Medical Center (MMC) in New Jersey. “They’ve heard how effective mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are; using a similar technology to help their body recognize and destroy melanoma makes sense to them.”
There is a dearth of effective treatments for melanoma, which kills about 8,000 people in the United States annually. Standard therapies fail to halt cancer progression in about 50% of patients, leaving them with no FDA-approved options.