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23 October 2023

Revolutionizing Cancer Research with the Power of mRNA

By Michelle Brown, VP, INT Oncology
Media Center > Blogs > One Medicine for One Patient: 
An Investigational mRNA Individualized Neoantigen Therapy image 1

Even with the significant strides made in oncology research over many decades, cancer continues to cast a wide shadow. In 2020 alone, the global impact of cancer escalated to over 19 million new cases and 10 million deaths.¹ This represents millions of patients and families urgently needing treatments.

The challenge is that every person and each tumor is unique. However, the way cancer is treated is changing. There may be more than a one-size-fits-all approach, as we now have the potential to customize treatment to the individual.

By harnessing the power of mRNA and leveraging technological innovations, we aim to achieve precision and tailor treatment options to each patient. Let’s delve into the potential of mRNA to address challenges in cancer research and advance cancer care.

Advancing Individualized Cancer Treatment Through our mRNA Platform

How could mRNA help personalize cancer care? Cancerous cells mutate to exploit different capabilities allowing them to continue to grow, including evading immune destruction. Neoantigens are generated as a result of these mutations, are not present in normal cells, and are unique to each person’s cancer. Backed by mRNA technology, we hope to create an individualized neoantigen therapy (INT) that leverages these neoantigens to help each patient’s immune system better recognize tumor cells and activate an anti-tumor immune response.

While mRNA technology significantly enhances our ability to tailor treatment to the individual, it might also allow us to address the more common mechanisms cancer cells exploit to help broader populations of cancer patients who may have different treatment needs. For instance, we are developing treatments targeting KRAS mutations present in a substantial 17-25% of all human cancers.²

We hope that mRNA technology will provide novel cancer therapies while also changing traditional development strategies. One example is the approach to combination regimens, which traditionally involve activating multiple, complementary pathways to attack a tumor and requires multiple medications. Leveraging our mRNA platform, we are pioneering ways to incorporate multiple mRNAs that target distinct immune pathways in a single therapy.

Given the potential within the immune system and our rapidly evolving understanding of cancer biology, it’s critical that we remain agile and adaptable in clinical development. The scalability of our mRNA platform allows us to accelerate pre-clinical research, bridging the gap between new knowledge and testable therapies, and thereby bringing new therapies to the patients who need them the most.

Stronger Together

We have long recognized the importance of collaboration to not only accelerate innovation, but also in enriching and broadening our approach to cancer treatment. We value our partners that share a similar passion for making individualized cancer care a reality for every patient and who are trailblazers and experts in their field. Merck is one such partner, with whom we are currently investigating our INT in combination with their immunotherapy as an adjuvant treatment in patients with resected high-risk melanoma. We are excited to expand our program with Merck to non-small cell lung cancer as well. We have also initiated partnerships with Immatics and CARsgen to pioneer novel and transformative therapies for cancer patients with high unmet needs. By combining our unique areas of expertise, collaboration helps push past what’s possible in cancer research.

Looking Forward

mRNA has extraordinary potential and Moderna feels a strong sense of responsibility to explore all the ways to use it to address unmet needs in cancer and beyond. We are extremely grateful to the participants in our clinical trials and the investigators and staff at our trial sites who are helping to advance this important research. We remain committed to doing whatever it takes to accelerate progress in the oncology space – this is just the beginning of our fight against cancer. As we continue to unleash the power of mRNA, we’ll work tirelessly to deliver transformative therapies for patients.