World’s largest cancer conference- the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago this week is discussing the latest research data on new therapies, medicines and potential vaccines that will prevent and cure cancers in future.

US firm Moderna, which successfully developed the COVID-19 vaccine with a new platform technology called mRNA, says the same technology is proving effective in developing the world’s first personalised mRNA cancer immunotherapy for melanoma. Moderna presented findings from its latest trials on 157 people with advanced skin cancer at ASCO. Moderna and Merck are experimenting a cancer vaccine, combining Merck’s cancer drug pembrolizumab (Keytruda) in the treatment process. The trials over three years show 75% of the patients treated with the two therapies survived with no recurrences at 2.5 years. The treatment is also being experimented with other cancers like squamous cell carcinoma, kidney and bladder cancer.

Just before the ASCO meetings, the German biotech company BioNTech, which developed an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine with Pfizer, presented data on early detection of colorectal cancer. Along with the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), BioNTech is set to start large trials with participation from thousands of patients in England at 30 sites. Initial trials to develop a customised cancer vaccine will focus on colorectal, skin, lung, bladder, pancreatic, and kidney cancers. In April, BioNTech said its trials showed an mRNA therapeutic cancer vaccine candidate triggered an immune response in some pancreatic cancer patients.

Multinational Amgen is presenting Phase III trial data of its Lumakras (sotorasib), intended to treat colorectal cancer. The same medicine was denied marketing approval in the US to treat non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in December 2023. Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) is also releasing Phase III results of Krazati (adagrasib) as an alternative to chemotherapy. Both are next-generation cancer drugs targeting to eliminate KRAS G12C, which are harmful mutations in a gene called KRAS that are the root cause of cancers.

ASCO 2024 will also see AstraZeneca revealing data from two of its blockbuster lung cancer drugs, Imfinzi (durvalumab) and Tagrisso (osimertinib). While J&J is also presenting data on its latest lung cancer drug, GSK, Pfizer and Novartis are presenting data on its blood cancer drugs.

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