Drug could lead to 10-year survival for those with advanced melanoma
Prof John Crown: “A substantial minority of patients get a good result”
A substantial minority of patients with the deadliest form of skin cancer will benefit from a new treatment, leading Irish oncologists have said.
Cancer specialists here have welcomed the results of a large study that followed patients diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer over a long period of time, which was presented at the European Cancer Congress in Amsterdam at the weekend. Just over one-fifth of patients with an advanced form of the disease were alive some three years after treatment with a drug that modifies the immune system.
Some of the 1,861 patients treated with ipilimumab, a human monoclonal antibody, survived for up to 10 years, until now a rare outcome for people diagnosed with advanced melanoma.
Stephen Hodi, assistant professor of medicine at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, who led the research team, told the congress: “Our findings demonstrate that there is a plateau in overall survival, which begins around the third year and extends through to the 10th year.” However he acknowledged the trial was an analysis of pooled data and not a single randomised controlled trial into the drug’s effectiveness.
Prof John Crown, consultant oncologist at St Vincent’s hospital Dublin, said “a substantial minority of patients get a good result from treatment with ipilimumab”.
He said several centres in Ireland were involved in a study to assess the benefits of combining ipilimumab with a drug called anti-PD1, which it is hoped will offer even greater tumour shrinkage.
Ipilimumab activates the immune system to fight melanoma skin cancer by targeting a protein receptor which is inhibited from recognising cancer cell s. The drug turns off the inhibitory mechanism, enabling the immune system to continue killing the cancer cells. Anti-PD1 also acts on the immune system, allowing it to attack the cancer.