A British individual tests the first Customised Melanoma Vaccination

In the UK, a significant study of the first “personalised” mRNA vaccination is currently underway to protect against melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.

One of the first patients to try the shot is 52-year-old Stevenage, Herts resident Steve Young, who had a melanoma tumour removed from his scalp in August of last year.

It’s meant to aid his immune system in identifying and eliminating any malignant cells that might still be present.

And ideally that implies his cancer won’t come back.

Phase III trials are currently in their final stages, and the vaccine, mRNA-4157 (V940), is being evaluated using the same technology as current Covid vaccines.

Physicians at University College London Hospitals (UCLH) are prescribing it in addition to pembrolizumab, better known as Keytruda, which also stimulates the immune system to destroy cancer cells.

DNA signature


Apart from clinical studies, the combined medication, manufactured by Moderna and Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD), is not yet routinely available on the NHS.

Researchers in a few other nations, such as Australia, are also testing it on patients in order to collect further data and determine whether it should be implemented more broadly.

The vaccine is customised, which means that its components are altered to fit each patient specifically.

It functions by giving the body instructions to produce proteins or antibodies that target markers or antigens present only on certain cancer cells. It is made to match the distinct genetic profile of the patient’s own tumour.

Dr. Heather Shaw, a “custom built” investigator at UCLH, stated that the vaccine was being tested on lung, bladder, and kidney tumours in addition to melanoma patients.

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“This is one of the most exciting things we’ve seen in a really long time,” she stated.

Since you wouldn’t expect it to function, you couldn’t offer it to the patient in queue after you made it entirely specifically for them.

It’s quite customised.

“These things are hugely technical and finely generated for the patient.”

“Very enthusiastic”


The international trial’s UK component seeks to enlist a minimum of 60–70 patients from eight locations, including London, Manchester, Edinburgh, and Leeds.

For the greatest outcome, the trial participants’ high-risk melanomas had to be surgically removed within the previous 12 weeks.

In London, Mr. Young is receiving medical care.

“The trial] gave me a chance to feel like I was actually doing something to fight a potential unseen enemy,” he stated in an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme.

“Scans revealed that I was radiologically clear, but there’s still a possibility that I had cancer cells circulating around undiscovered.”

“So rather than just sit there and wait and hope it was never going to come back, I actually had this chance to get involved in putting on some boxing gloves and squaring up to it.”

Signs of melanoma to watch out for


The musician didn’t know the tumour on his scalp was cancer for many years. “Massive shock” was how he described receiving a diagnosis.

“I literally spent two weeks just thinking ‘this is it’,” he stated.

“My dad died of emphysema when he was 57 and I actually thought ‘I’m going to die younger than my dad’.”

Typical symptoms of melanoma to look out for consist of:

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“So rather than just sit there and wait and hope it was never going to come back, I actually had this chance to get involved in putting on some boxing gloves and squaring up to it.”

Signs of melanoma to watch out for
The musician didn’t know the tumour on his scalp was cancer for many years. “Massive shock” was how he described receiving a diagnosis.

“I literally spent two weeks just thinking ‘this is it’,” he stated.

“My dad died of emphysema when he was 57 and I actually thought ‘I’m going to die younger than my dad’.”

Typical symptoms of melanoma to look out for consist of:

  • a new abnormal mole
  • an existing mole that seems to be growing or changing
  • a change to a previous patch of normal skin

Treatment for melanoma is easier and has a higher chance of success the sooner it is detected.

According to Phase II study data released in December, individuals with significant, high-risk melanomas who received the vaccine in addition to the immunotherapy treatment Keytruda had a nearly 50% higher chance of dying or having their disease return after three years compared to those who just received the medication.

Given that the therapy seems to have “relatively tolerable side effects,” Dr. Shaw expressed genuine optimism that it could be a “gamechanger.”

She said that for most patients, these side effects were no worse than receiving the flu or Covid vaccine, and that they included fatigue and soreness in the arm after the shot.

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