Home » Anti-melanoma vaccine, testing begins at Pascale in Naples: first dose administered

Anti-melanoma vaccine, testing begins at Pascale in Naples: first dose administered

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Anti-melanoma vaccine, testing begins at Pascale in Naples: first dose administered

Important news in the field of fighting cancer. Alfredo De Renzis (71 years old) is the first Italian patient to receive the experimental mRNA anti-cancer vaccine for the treatment of melanoma. The dose was administered to him this morning at the National Cancer Institute “Pascale” Foundation in Naples, where the man has been under treatment since last September, followed by the oncologist Paolo Ascierto. The man, also a doctor, is participating in the phase 3 study of Moderna’s vaccine, the last step before the product can be approved by regulatory authorities.


Ascierto’s words: «Today is a great day», even if «it will take a few years before we have the results of this last phase […] our hope is to be able to give a new and more effective therapeutic option to as many patients as possible.”

The experimentation

From what we learn, it seems that 18 other patients have already been selected to receive the same drug. This anti-melanoma vaccine, produced by the American company Moderna, is based on the same technology adopted for those against Covid.

As the oncologist explains, it uses synthetic mRNAs designed to “instruct” the immune system to recognize specific proteins, called neoantigens, which are the expression of genetic mutations that have occurred in diseased cells. Its purpose is not to prevent the disease, but to help and support the patients’ immune system to recognize and attack the tumor more effectively.

It is necessary to point out that, since it is a double-blind trial, the one injected into Alfredo could be a placebo dose. According to the protocol, in fact, neither the patient nor the oncologist knows what has been injected until the end of the trial.

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The general director of Pascale, Attilio Bianchi, expresses strong emotion: «We are honored that Pascale is the first center in Italy to participate in the testing of the first mRNA vaccine against cancer. A completely new frontier is opening up and we are proud to be protagonists.”

The point about anti-cancer vaccines

It is estimated that there are over 40 mRNA anti-cancer vaccines under study worldwide, while new indications for immunotherapy drugs already in use continue to increase. An example, given by the oncologist Ascierto himself, is pembrolizumab, a monoclonal antibody against PD-1, aimed at one of the “brakes” of the immune system, first approved for melanoma and last September authorized as a treatment for metastatic kidney cancer , for metastatic and perioperatory triple-negative breast cancer, for advanced endometrial and cervical cancers, for esophageal cancer and for some gastric and colon cancers.

«There are also combinations of immunotherapy – says the oncologist – as in the case of nivolumab and ipilimumab, approved and reimbursed by the National Health Service from 2022 for the treatment of metastatic non-small cell lung cancer, advanced kidney cancer in the front line of treatment, advanced esophageal cancer with chemotherapy progression, first-line pleural mesothelioma and some colorectal cancers. We have also received approval for the use of bispecific antibodies such as tebentafusp, in patients diagnosed with metastatic or unresectable uveal melanoma who present a particular antigen.”

To date, there are approximately 70 immunotherapy drugs under study, both in the preclinical phase (non-human trials) and in the clinical phase. In Italy alone there are around 200 ongoing clinical trials, of which 51 with active enrollment which in all respects represent a new therapeutic opportunity for patients.

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