Australian researchers lead world in successful trial of new cancer treatment
3 June 2021
In a breakthrough which could extend to the treatment of other cancers, a new immune checkpoint inhibitor has proven effective in helping save the lives of advanced melanoma patients.
Relatlimab is the first immunotherapy treatment to target LAG-3, a protein in immune cells which reinvigorates and enhances the tumour fighting response.
Immune checkpoint inhibitors targeting the CTLA-4 and PD-1 proteins have revolutionised treatment of advanced melanoma over the past seven years. These treatments are most effective when used in combination, but this tends to increase their toxicity. Some 50% of patients either do not respond, or develop resistance, to these treatments and therefore it is vital that new treatments are developed.
Melanoma Institute Australia (MIA) Co-Medical Director, Professor Georgina Long AO of The University of Sydney, said the successful trial of relatlimab, targeting the LAG-3 protein, makes it a critical new weapon in the fight to save all lives from melanoma.
‘This drug gives us a third immune checkpoint inhibitor to add to the treatment toolkit which may be the difference between survival or not for melanoma patients around the world,’ Professor Long said.
‘Immunotherapy harnesses the body’s own immune system to fight the cancer cells and having a third immune checkpoint inhibitor means we can potentially make inroads in saving the 50% of advanced melanoma patients who don’t respond to current treatments.
‘Australian researchers and patients were critical to trialling this new treatment which has very real potential to also extend to other cancers.’
The findings from the RELATIVITY-047 trial will be presented this weekend at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting. Professor Georgina Long is senior lead author for the international trial and MIA was a leading contributor of patients for the study.
Results showed that in previously untreated advanced melanoma patients, combining relatlimab with nivolumab (an immune checkpoint inhibitor targeting the PD-1 protein) doubled the progression free survival time compared to the use of nivolumab alone (10.1 vs 4.6 months respectively).
At one year, almost 50% of patients on the combination therapy had no disease progression, whereas nearly two-thirds of patients on the single therapy had progressed. Importantly, the combined therapy was also far less toxic to patients.
‘Immunotherapy has already transformed the treatment of melanoma and other cancers, with anti-PD-1 therapies leading the way,’ Professor Long said.
‘This new immune checkpoint inhibitor that targets LAG-3, and its proven effectiveness when used in combination, improves outcomes for melanoma patients even further and will likely impact cancer treatment globally.’
Melanoma Institute Australia is affiliated with The University of Sydney and Professor Long co-leads the Translational Research Group at the Charles Perkins Centre.Watch Prof Georgina Long AO and melanoma survivor Andrew Bennett when the breakthrough was announced on Channel 9 news:
Media - for more information, please contact:
m: 0412 798 990
MIA's Co-Medical Director Professor Richard Scolyer has received The University of Sydney Alumni Award for International Achievement.
More than 120 MIA clinicians, researchers and staff came together online to share research highlights.
For the 2nd consecutive year, MIA's Co-Medical Director Professor Richard Scolyer has been selected in the top 100 best, brightest, and most powerful advocates of pathology by The Pathologist.
As of Monday 27th July all patients and carers/family members coming into The Poche Centre will be required to bring their own mask.
In a recent issue of Cancer Cell journal, Prof Georgina Long AO and Prof Richard Scolyer discuss the challenge of bringing together clinical work and scientific research to underpin successful cancer research.
Clinicians around the world now have access to a new online calculator that predicts the risk that a patient’s primary melanoma has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
Professor Long has been appointed as an Officer (AO) of the Order of Australia (General Division) for distinguished service to medicine, particularly, to melanoma clinical and translational research, and to professional medical societies.
“I had a complete response within about six months. All of my tumours disappeared."
‘We are extremely proud of our ongoing contribution to the global effort to save lives from melanoma, with Dr Silva’s prestigious award proof that we continue to lead the way,'
MIA's Co-Medical Director, Professor Richard Scolyer, has achieved a Google Scholar h-index of 100.
We know what Melanoma March means to our community, so when we had to cancel our physical events, we created Melanoma March Virtual so that everyone across Australia could still connect to honour loved ones and support each other.
A must-read personal account by Garry Maddox in The Sydney Morning Herald of how immunotherapy is revolutionising melanoma treatment.
On Friday, a publication that lays out the steps needed to find out if a systematic screening program for melanoma would benefit all Australians was published in the Australia & New Zealand Journal of Public Health.
Melanoma March events have been cancelled. A Virtual March will be held on Sunday 29th March. Read this statement from MIA CEO Matthew Browne.
Thank you to the thousands of Aussies who bought ‘Game On Mole‘ t-shirts, took selfies, shared t-shirt pics on social media and started lifesaving conversations around sun safety and skin health.
Melanoma patients now have greater access to subsidised immunotherapy thanks to additional treatments today being listed on the PBS.
Brisbane couple Leon and Tamra Betts were, like thousands of others around Australia, on the couch watching MAFS when newlywed Natasha ran through her weekly beauty routine. When they heard the 26-year-old mention solarium use, they were shocked, and then saddened, prompting this open letter to all young Australians.
Professor Richard Scolyer, Co-Medical Director of Melanoma Institute Australia, will welcome international attendees this weekend to a sold-out, two-day course on ‘Pigmented Lesions and Other Hot Topics in Dermatopathology’.
It is time for a reality check on solariums.
They have no place in anyone’s beauty routine.
Throughout January our community created, hosted and participated in some amazing events, each of them helping us on our quest to reach zero deaths from melanoma.