Moderna Announces mRNA Vaccine Targeting Herpes and Cancer

Building on the momentum of its extraordinarily successful mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, biotechnology company Moderna has announced three new mRNA development targets. The company is now setting its vaccine sights on the herpes simplex virus, the varicella-zoster virus, and a novel cancer vaccine.  mRNA COVID-19 vaccines were demonstrating extraordinary safety and efficacyModerna has just announced a trio of new developmental targets. These three new mRNA vaccine targets sit alongside the company’s previously announced focuses on HIV, influenza, cytomegalovirus (CMV), and the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).
The biggest newly announced target is a mRNA vaccine against the herpes simplex virus (HSV).  HSV-2 is the world’s most common sexually transmitted disease, with around 10 percent of people thought to be infected. Some researchers have also hypothesized the herpes virus may play a role in the onset of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

The second mRNA target announced by Moderna is aimed at the varicella-zoster virus (VSV). This is the virus that causes chicken pox and it is also a latent virus that can remain dormant for years after an initial infection. When VSV reactivates it causes a disease known as shinglesModerna’s targeting of shingles follows an announcement last month from Pfizer indicating it too will be looking at developing an mRNA vaccine for this common disease.

The final newly announced mRNA target is for a vaccine aimed at two antigens expressed by some cancer cells. The vaccine focuses on two antigens: Indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO) and programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1). Both molecules are known to play a role in the growth of tumor cells. The goal of an mRNA vaccine for cancer would be to train the body’s immune cells to detect tumor cells expressing these specific antigens. The mRNA vaccine will initially be tested on advanced or metastatic skin cancer and a type of lung cancer called non-small cell lung carcinoma.

We are committed to addressing latent viruses with the goal of preventing the lifelong medical conditions that they cause with our mRNA vaccine programs,” said Stephane Bancel, CEO of Moderna. “With our HSV and VZV vaccine candidates, we also hope to improve the quality of life for those with symptomatic disease. With our new checkpoint cancer vaccine, we look forward to exploring if we can induce T cells specific to PD-L1 and IDO1 through vaccination. Our research teams are working on additional mRNA candidates, which we look forward to sharing in the future.

Source: https://www.accesswire.com/

Immunotherapy Drug for Advanced Lung Cancer

Lung cancer spreads to the brain in about one-quarter of patients with an advanced form of the disease. To date, radiation has been the only treatment option, but it comes with toxic side effects. Researchers at Yale Cancer Center (YCC) have found that use of the checkpoint inhibitor pembrolizumab in place of radiation can extend life with very few side effects in this patient population.

The findings, published in The Lancet Oncology, found that patient response depended on the level of the biomarker (PD-L1) expressed in their tumors. Of those that did respond, overall survival at one year was 40% and 34% at two years.

Pembrolizumab monoclonal antibody drug protein.

Survival in this cohort of patients exceeds the historically documented survival for patients with brain metastasis from non-small cell lung cancer or NSCLC, which is a two-year survival of about 14%,” said the study’s lead investigator Sarah B. Goldberg, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of medicine (medical oncology) at YCC.

This is the first study to specifically test the benefit of the treatment in a prospective clinical trial of lung cancer patients who had not yet been treated for brain metastasis or whose tumors recurred after radiation. Before this, most clinical trials of a checkpoint immunotherapy drug did not include patients with brain metastasis, but the few that did provided hints of benefit when retrospectively analyzed.

Source: https://news.yale.edu/