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Austin Doctor Speaks on New Clinical Trial to Prevent Melanoma Reoccurrence

Publication: KTBC-TV (FOX, Austin)

AUSTIN, Texas - The American Cancer Society said skin cancer is the most common of all cancers in the U.S.

While melanoma accounts for only about one percent of skin cancers, it causes a large majority of skin cancer deaths. However, a new clinical trial using mRNA technology to prevent melanoma reoccurrence is underway.

Dr. Jeff Yorio, lead trial investigator at Texas Oncology-Austin Central, joined FOX 7 Austin's Rebecca Thomas to discuss.

Rebecca Thomas: Dr. Yorio, Austin is one of the only two sites in Texas participating in this global clinical trial. I understand you've enrolled two patients in phase three of the trial, but you're looking for more?

Dr. Jeff Yorio: Yes, definitely. We would love to have more patients. You know, this is a trial that's basically looking at patients with a high risk of stage two, stage three or stage four melanoma who have had it removed by surgery. And, we are looking at adding this vaccine after initial surgical treatment.  

Rebecca Thomas: So, this is essentially an mRNA vaccine for melanoma. How does this work?

Dr. Jeff Yorio: Yeah, it's pretty neat. You know, so people, of course, are familiar with the with the COVID vaccine. Which some of those COVID vaccines do use mRNA technology. In this case, they're actually taking a specimen from the patient's tumor, the patient's melanoma. And they're designing a personalized vaccine for that person's melanoma. And then and then reintroducing that back to the patients with the idea that it's stimulating their immune system to, to find and kill that, that cancer if it's still around anywhere. And so it's literally personalized immunotherapy.  

Rebecca Thomas: In this phase of the trial, what will you be looking at?

Dr. Jeff Yorio: So this trial is currently for patients that fit that description. You know stage two, stage three. Stage four patients that have had it removed by surgery, we would offer them adjuvant immunotherapy drugs. And one of those medicines is a drug called Keytruda or pembrolizumab. And they go on that medicine typically for about one year after surgery. And so this trial is looking at still using that treatment, which is a standard of care right now. And seeing about adding this mRNA vaccine to that treatment. And it will be randomizing people to receive the vaccine. And then about one third of the people will not receive the vaccine. They'll just receive standard of care treatment with the symbolism of the Keytruda. And then we'll be able to tell and see if adding this vaccine is beneficial to these patients. And hopefully that will translate into this type of technology getting approved and being available to all patients with melanoma that have stage two, stage three, stage four melanoma. 

Rebecca Thomas: If all goes well, how soon could this go to market and become a viable treatment for people with melanoma?

Dr. Jeff Yorio: You know, the trial itself will probably take 1 to 2 years to fully occur across the world. And then we have to wait for some results to really come in. And so I'd anticipate probably this is something that's available to everybody, potentially in 2 to 3 years if it goes well.  

Rebecca Thomas: Once again, who is eligible for this trial, and how can they sign up?

Dr. Jeff Yorio: So these are going to be patients that are at high risk stage two, stage three, or stage four melanoma that has been completely removed by surgery. And then patients that have just had their surgery. So we'd like to start them on this type of treatment within about three months of surgery.  

Rebecca Thomas: Dr. Yorio with Texas Oncology-Austin Central, thanks for sharing your time and expertise with us tonight.

For more information on the clinical trial, click here.

Click here to watch the full story.

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