Australian researchers stopping melanoma in its tracks

Australian researchers stopping melanoma in its tracks

11 September 2017

A team of Australian researchers has made the ultimate move in the battle to beat melanoma, successfully trialling a combination of new treatments to stop the disease in its tracks and prevent it from spreading or metastasising to distant organs.

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, with one Australian dying from advanced melanoma every five hours.

Ground-breaking results from two international clinical trials conducted by investigators at Melanoma Institute Australia are being presented today at one of the world’s largest medical oncology conferences, the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) 2017 Congress in Spain. The research has also been published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine today.

The trials, COMBI-AD and CheckMate 238, proved successful in preventing the spread of disease in Stage III melanoma patients whose tumours had been surgically removed. Until now, these patients were at a high risk (40−70 per cent) of their disease progressing to advanced and fatal melanoma.

“These results will change the way we treat melanoma patients as well as their quality of life,” says study author Professor Georgina Long (pictured), Conjoint Medical Director of Melanoma Institute Australia and Chair of Melanoma Medical Oncology and Translational Research at The University of Sydney. 

“Until now, Stage III melanoma patients who have had their tumours surgically removed have simply had to play the waiting game, to see if their melanoma would metastasise or spread. Living with such fear severely affected them and their loved ones.

“Results from these clinical trials suggest we can stop the disease in its tracks – effectively preventing it from spreading and saving lives. Our ultimate goal of making melanoma a chronic rather than a terminal illness is now so much closer to being achieved,” she said.

In the COMBI-AD trial, patients were randomised to receive a combination of targeted therapies (dabrafenib and trametinib) or placebo for 12 months. Targeted therapies block the action of a particular gene which is a driver for melanoma. It was aimed at patients who are BRAF positive. It not only prevented resected Stage III melanoma from recurring, but it increased overall survival.

The CheckMate 238 trial involved patients with high risk Stage III and Stage IV disease who had had all melanoma surgically removed. They were randomised to be treated with the immunotherapy nivolumab or ipilimumab for 12 months.  Immunotherapies reboot the immune system to attack the melanoma cells. Results showed nivolumab decreased the chance of relapse, and it had a superior safety profile over ipilimumab. This benefit was seen in patients regardless of BRAF mutation status. The follow up period is too short to yet determine long-term survival rates.

Research had already shown that targeted and immune therapies can successfully treat patients with advanced (Stage IV) melanoma that could not be removed surgically.

These clinical trials are the first in the world to give the treatments to melanoma patients at an earlier stage of the disease to prevent spread and recurrence.

“These clinical trials show we now have ammunition to prevent melanoma spreading and progressing, which until now was a critical area of disease behaviour where we had no control,” Professor Long said.

“This will change how melanoma is treated around the world, as we no longer have to passively wait to see if the melanoma spreads.

“We can now actively and effectively attack the melanoma at an earlier stage, reducing the dreadful anxiety for patients about progressing to a potentially terminal illness and ensuring they have much better outcomes,” she said.  

History teacher and mother Renae Aslanis was a patient on the COMBI-AD trial. After having 10 lymph nodes removed, she decided to enter the clinical trial rather than just "watching and waiting". Now four-and-a-half years later, she is still "going strong"! Read more.

Download the media release

Renae

Publications:

Australasian Melanoma Conference AMC2021
19 Nov - 20 Nov 2021

Australasian Melanoma Conference AMC2021

The 2021 Australasian Melanoma Conference (AMC2021) will held in Sydney, Australia.

Australian researchers spearhead paradigm shift in melanoma treatment
20 Sep 2021

Australian researchers spearhead paradigm shift in melanoma treatment

Drug therapy set to become standard treatment in high-risk early stage patients to stop disease spread

Tags: melanoma
Melanoma March physical events in 2022
20 Sep 2021

Melanoma March physical events in 2022

We are excited to announce a return to our much-loved physical Melanoma March events in March 2022! 

Tags: melanoma
Melanoma Bike Bash 2021: What a ride!
20 Sep 2021

Melanoma Bike Bash 2021: What a ride!

Over two fun, yet challenging, days in September an intrepid group of riders and crew successfully completed the annual Melanoma Bike Bash in WA!

Tags: melanoma
Prof Georgina Long AO awarded inaugural Outstanding Female Researcher Medal from AAHMS
16 Sep 2021

Prof Georgina Long AO awarded inaugural Outstanding Female Researcher Medal from AAHMS

Prof Long AO has been recognised by Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences for her transformative work advancing melanoma treatments.

Tags: melanoma
MIA researchers awarded $7.2m in NHMRC grants for health research
15 Sep 2021

MIA researchers awarded $7.2m in NHMRC grants for health research

Three MIA researchers at University of Sydney received grants to further their important melanoma research.

Tags: melanoma
Amie St Clair Ball in Wagga postponed for a third time
06 Sep 2021

Amie St Clair Ball in Wagga postponed for a third time

COVID restrictions continue to impact fundraising for melanoma services in Riverina.

Honouring Ben's life by supporting the next generation of melanoma researchers
30 Aug 2021

Honouring Ben's life by supporting the next generation of melanoma researchers

Ben Garrow lost his life to melanoma. In his honour his family has established a scholarship to support a PhD student whose work focuses on saving lives from melanoma.

MIA's annual Research Retreat 2021
20 Aug 2021

MIA's annual Research Retreat 2021

More than 150 clinicians, researchers and MIA staff gathered online to share research highlights.

Understanding the needs of Stage III melanoma patients when choosing treatments.
28 Jul 2021

Understanding the needs of Stage III melanoma patients when choosing treatments.

Independent researchers at The University of Sydney are seeking patient feedback.

Community Fundraising Wrap Up Apr-June 2021
21 Jul 2021

Community Fundraising Wrap Up Apr-June 2021

A re-cap of the wonderful, and often very creative, community fundraising initiatives over the April to June quarter.

Tags: melanoma
Patients paying it forward
19 Jul 2021

Patients paying it forward

Our patients who donate their tissue samples and records to our research are helping to make a difference to the lives of future melanoma patients. 

Tags: melanoma
Research boost to improve outcomes for melanoma patients
15 Jul 2021

Research boost to improve outcomes for melanoma patients

MIA researchers have recently been awarded two competitive funding grants, which will help facilitate their ground-breaking work in melanoma research.

Tags: melanoma
Amie St Clair 10th Annual Ball
25 Jun 2022

Amie St Clair 10th Annual Ball

Celebrate the 10th anniversary of Amie St Clair Melanoma at the Annual Ball in Wagga Wagga!   

Riverina Melanoma Ride
31 Mar - 07 Apr 2022

Riverina Melanoma Ride

Postponed to early 2022. Melanoma survivor Matt Kean is doing a 1000km bike ride around the Riverina to increase awareness of melanoma and raise funds for Amie St Clair Melanoma - MIA. There are many ways you can be part of this life-changing ride!

Melanoma Clinical Trial opens in Wagga
23 Jun 2021

Melanoma Clinical Trial to open in Wagga

Riverina patients gain access to potentially life saving immunotherapy treatment close to home.

Tags: melanoma
Queen's Birthday Honour for Professor Richard Scolyer
13 Jun 2021

 Queen's Birthday Honour for Professor Richard Scolyer

MIA's Prof Scolyer has been appointed as an Officer (AO) of the Order of Australia. 

Tags: melanoma
Sharing our research on the global stage at 2021 ASCO Annual Meeting
07 Jun 2021

Sharing our research on the global stage at 2021 ASCO Annual Meeting

Research from MIA was once again in the spotlight as findings were shared at the virtual ASCO21. 

Tags: melanoma
Australian researchers lead world in successful trial of new cancer treatment
03 Jun 2021

Australian researchers lead world in successful trial of new cancer treatment.

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.

Tags: melanoma
Thank you doesn't seem enough for our melanoma nurses.
28 May 2021

Thank you doesn't seem enough for our melanoma nurses.

Whilst our research and clinical teams are trialling new treatments to save lives, it is our nurses who are on the front line providing care and support.

Tags: melanoma