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Hollywood Private Hospital top recruiting site for global Moderna melanoma clinical trial

Dec 09, 2021

Professor Adnan Khattak, based at Hollywood Private Hospital, is the world’s top recruiter for a Moderna clinical trial of an investigational personalised mRNA cancer vaccine for melanoma patients.

Moderna is evaluating whether mRNA technology is effective at harnessing the body’s immune system to identify and kill cancer cells.

By using cloud-based computing and a specifically developed algorithm, the goal is to create individualised cancer vaccines to deliver a custom-tailored medicine for each patient.

Affinity Clinical Research, which has partnered with Prof Khattak at Hollywood Private Hospital on this study, has enrolled 17 patients to the study. The research is exploring the efficacy of a personalised mRNA cancer vaccine in combination with an immune inhibitor and comparing it to treatment with the immune inhibitor alone.

As the lead for the research team, Prof Khattak said it was a significant achievement for Hollywood to offer such a novel investigational therapy trial for melanoma patients.

“Recent breakthroughs in cancer immunotherapy have demonstrated anti-tumour responses can be achieved by activating antigen specific T cells,” Prof Khattak said.

“However, some patients’ cancer responds only partially or does not respond at all to these anti-cancer therapies.

“It is hoped an individualised vaccine will help the patient’s immune system better recognise cancer cells as foreign and destroy them.”

During the trial, each patient’s tumour tissue is sent to a lab in the US and through next-generation sequencing, computers identify mutations found on the patient’s cancer cells, called neoepitopes.

“Neoepitopes help the immune system distinguish cancer cells from normal cells,” Prof Khattak said.

“Scientists then create an investigational vaccine that encodes for each of these mutations and loads them onto a single mRNA molecule.”

Prof Khattak said the aim is for personalised mRNA vaccines to gain better results for patients when combined with the immunotherapy options currently available.

“The standard treatment for patients with high risk Stage III melanoma is 12-months therapy with an immune checkpoint inhibitor,” Prof Khattak said.

“However, about 20-25 per cent of these patients will experience disease relapse.

“Therefore there is the need to develop better treatment options to cure a higher proportion of patients with early stage melanoma.”

Prof Khattak said the current immunotherapy options available for melanoma patients were not patient specific.

“We don’t have a specific biomarker to predict which patients are likely to respond to immunotherapy and who is likely to have treatment refractory disease,” Prof Khattak said.

The global study involves 150 participants and preliminary results of the study are expected to be released in 12 to 18 months.

East Victoria Park mother Nicole (40) was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma in September and is participating in the trial.

“I heard about mRNA technology through the COVID-19 vaccines and did some research,” Nicole said.

“I feel lucky that this is available to me.”

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Australia. 1 It is estimated there will be 16,878 cases of melanoma diagnosed in 2021 and 1315 estimated deaths. The chance of surviving at least five years is 92 per cent. 2

Head of Affinity Clinical Research Krys Hiscock said clinical trials can potentially be an important option for people with melanoma.

“Among other benefits, clinical trials provide access to new treatments before they become available to the general public,” Ms Hiscock said.

Hollywood Chief Executive Officer Peter Mott said the melanoma research study was one of many high-profile international clinical trials underway at Hollywood.

“We are thrilled to be taking part in such important medical research and are well placed to offer more novel therapies for patients in the future,” Mr Mott said.

For more information about the melanoma clinical trial visit: clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03897881

1 www.cancerwa.asn.au/resources/statistics/
2 www.cancerwa.asn.au/resources/statistics/

Professor Adnan Khattak and melanoma patient Nicole

Professor Adnan Khattak and melanoma patient Nicole