Moderna’s shares soared Tuesday in the wake of COVID-19manufacturer detailed progress in developing a preventative injection for a deadly form of .
The company said a possibleThe vaccine it is studying with pharmaceutical giant Merck did well in a small study of patients who had their cancer surgically removed.
The drugmakers said a combination of the vaccine and Merck’s Keytruda immunotherapy led to a statistically significant improvement in survival before cancer returned in patients with advanced melanoma.
“We’re very excited, we’re moving very quickly with Merck toward phase 3 of this study,” Moderna’s CEO Stephane Bancel told CNBC Tuesday morning.
Phase 3 is typically the largest and most expensive stage of clinical research before a potential drug is reviewed by regulators for approval.
Moderna developed one of the most popular vaccines used toand the drugmaker brought in more than $3 billion from its Spikevax in the third quarter of this year.
But vaccine use has slowed, and Moderna relies on Spikevax for nearly all of its revenue.
Like Spikevax, the potential skin cancer vaccine uses mRNA technology. It trains the patient’s immune system to specifically recognize and respond to mutations in the patient’s tumor DNA.
In a mid-stage clinical trial involving 157 patients, researchers compared the combination of the vaccine and Keytruda with Keytruda alone.
Keytruda, Merck’s best-selling product, prepares the body’s immune system to detect and fight tumor cells. Regulators have approved it to treat various types of cancer.
The group of patients who took the potential vaccine and Keytruda saw a 44% reduced risk of death or the cancer coming back, the companies said.
Treatments continued for about a year in both groups, unless the disease returned or the side effects were too severe.
Merck and Moderna hope to start a phase 3 study next year, and the companies say they intend to expand their focus to other types of tumors.
Merck and Moderna entered into an agreement to work together in 2016, and the companies plan to share costs and profits in their collaboration. Merck also paid Moderna $250 million.
Shares of Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Moderna Inc. soared 23% to surpass $200 in midday trading, while broader indices rose. Kenilworth, New Jersey-based Merck & Co. rose less than 1%.