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First UK patients receive experimental mRNA therapy for cancer in global trial

The phase 1/2 Mobilize trial is evaluating the safety and efficacy of mRNA-4359.

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust (ICHT) and Imperial College London (ICL) have announced that the first UK patients have received the experimental mRNA therapy in an ongoing phase 1/2 clinical trial to treat melanoma, lung cancer and other solid tumour cancers.

The patients received the treatment at the National Institute for Health and Care Research’s Imperial Clinical Research facility at Hammersmith Hospital.

In the UK, around one in two people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. While a range of therapies, including chemotherapy and immune therapies, have been successful, some cancer cells can become resistant to drugs, making tumours more challenging to treat.

Sponsored by Moderna and undertaken through the Moderna-UK strategic partnership, the global Mobilize trial is evaluating the safety and efficacy of an immunotherapy known as mRNA-4359, as well as its ability to recognise and fight cancer cells.

mRNA-4359 is a therapeutic cancer immunotherapy that is ready-made and tailored to a particular type of cancer.

The experimental immunotherapy works to present common markers of tumours to patients’ immune systems, training them to recognise and fight cancer cells that express them and potentially eliminate cells that could suppress the immune response.

The primary aim of the study is to assess whether the new mRNA therapy is safe and tolerated by patients, either when administered alone or in combination with an existing drug known as Keytruda (pembrolizumab), a type of immune checkpoint inhibitor developed by Merck & Co, known as MSD outside the US and Canada.

Researchers are also investigating whether the combination of treatments can shrink tumours in patients with certain types of lung and skin cancer and hope that the treatment could become a new option for difficult-to-treat cancers.

Dr David Pinato, clinician scientist, ICL’s department of surgery and cancer and consultant medical oncologist, ICHT, said: “This trial is laying crucial groundwork that is moving us closer towards new therapies that are potentially less toxic and more precise.”