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Cancer drug shows early promise in neck and head cancer patients / Image source: Adobe
  • Cancer drug gets positive readout
  • Potential for personalised medicines
  • Moderna has over 45 drugs in development

US biotechnology firm Moderna (MRNA:NASDAQ) was the top performer in the S&P 500 on Tuesday (9 April) jumping as much as 10% after its personalised cancer vaccine showed positive results in an early stage trial.

The shares closed 6% higher at $11.60, a new three month high, but are down 30% over the last year reflecting declining demand for its Covid-19 vaccine. The shares remain 75% below the highs reached in September 2021.


Moderna said a combination of its mRNA-based cancer vaccine and Merck’s (MRK:NYSE) cancer drug Keytruda showed a greater overall survival rate in patients with a type of head and neck cancer than those treated with Keytruda alone.

The vaccine is being developed for melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer. In a prior study the vaccine, called mRNA-4157, when administered with Keytruda was found to help reduce the risk of recurrence or death by 49% in patients with melanoma.

It is based on the same mRNA technology used in the firm’s successful Covid-19 vaccine and is designed to train the immune system to recognise and attack specific mutations in cancer cells.

Jefferies analyst Michael Yee said: ‘The data continues to validate the individualized therapy platform and suggests it could potentially work in indications outside melanoma.’


Moderna has been steadily building a pipeline of treatments to fill the void left by falling demand for its only product currently on the market.

The company forecasts its respiratory franchise, comprising its Covid-19 and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) vaccines, will generate $4 billion of revenue in 2024 following expected regulatory approval in the first half.

In total, Moderna has over 45 products in development including a vaccine for the digestive system bug norovirus, as well as vaccines for AIDS and Zika virus.

The long-term potential applications of Moderna’s mRNA technology across several diseases is why the shares are a core holding for growth investors such as Ballie Gifford-managed Scottish Mortgage (SMT).



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Issue Date: 10 Apr 2024