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:

MIA's Dermatology services expanded
27 May 2016

MIA's Dermatology services expanded

We are pleased to announce a recent expansion to the dermatology services at Melanoma Institute Australia.

5 Minutes with Maria Gonzalez
20 May 2016

5 Minutes with Maria Gonzalez

This International Clinical Trials Day we reflect on the importance of clinical trials and the people who dedicate their lives to helping melanoma patients today and in the future.

Melanoma eBook to educate GPs
12 May 2016

Melanoma eBook to educate GPs

MIA has launched its first eBook Melanoma Essentials – A Concise Guide, a resource for GPs and other medical, nursing and allied professionals to help them effectively diagnose and manage cases.

5 Minutes with Dr Scot Ebbinghaus
05 May 2016

5 Minutes with Dr Scot Ebbinghaus

Dr Scot Ebbinghaus chats to us about an exciting clinical trial at MIA and where melanoma treatment is headed in the future.

Opdivo available on PBS for advanced melanoma patients
01 May 2016

Opdivo available on PBS for advanced melanoma patients

A new melanoma treatment has been listed on the PBS today, giving another option for advanced melanoma patients. 

5 Minutes with Dr Louise Jackett
27 Apr 2016

5 Minutes with Dr Louise Jackett

MIA's Pathology Fellow Dr Louise Jackett tells us why she's joined our fellowship program to learn from the best.

MIA patient's plight highlighted in ABC series
27 Apr 2016

MIA patient's plight highlighted in ABC series

MIA doctors and patient have featured in the final episode of ABC’s ground-breaking series Keeping Australia Alive.

Recruiting: Pregnancy and moles study
26 Apr 2016

Recruiting: Pregnancy and moles study

Specialist dermatologists at MIA are researching moles during pregnancy and we are looking for study recruits.

The role of radiotherapy in melanoma
22 Apr 2016

The role of radiotherapy in melanoma

New research is re-writing the textbooks on what we know about melanoma by highlighting the effectiveness of radiotherapy as a treatment, reversing a long-held belief that melanoma was resistant to radiotherapy.

Australian melanoma rates take the silver – and that's good news
31 Mar 2016

Australian melanoma rates take the silver – and that's good news

However, Australia's burden of melanoma will stay very high over the next 15 years unless we do more. MIA's Professor Graham Mann explains.

Australia unites taking small steps to make a big difference for melanoma research
23 Mar 2016

Australia unites taking small steps to make a big difference for melanoma research

Thank you to everyone involved in making Melanoma March 2016 a huge success

And they're off... Melanoma March 2016 begins!
29 Feb 2016

And they're off... Melanoma March 2016 begins!

Melanoma March 2016 has officially begun with more than 300 people marching in Rockingham and Devonport.

5 Minutes with Carole Renouf
29 Feb 2016

5 Minutes with Carole Renouf

MIA's new CEO Carole Renouf has been in her role only a month, but is already making plans for the future of MIA.

Opinion: Outing Melanoma
24 Feb 2016

Opinion: Outing Melanoma

In the wake of Susie Maroney's recent announcement that she is battling melanoma, CEO Carole Renouf's opinion piece weighs in on the critical need we have in Australia to raise awareness about melanoma. 

Congratulations Professor Georgina Long
22 Feb 2016

Congratulations Professor Georgina Long

MIA's Georgina Long has been appointed Professor and awarded a coverted prize in medial research.

Melanoma March 2016: Where your funds are going
19 Feb 2016

Melanoma March 2016: Where your funds are going

Melanoma March 2016 funding will be used to initiate an ambitious new project that will support the best possible care for melanoma patients around Australia through a new data and communication platform. 

New research shows long-term survival in group of advanced melanoma patients treated with BRAF inhibitors
05 Feb 2016

New research shows long-term survival in group of advanced melanoma patients treated with BRAF inhibitors

New MIA-led research has been published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Melanoma March 2016 is launched
02 Feb 2016

Melanoma March 2016 is launched

Melanoma March was officially launched today with the announcement of the national research project funded by the march. 

MIA's research pivotal in TGA's approval of new therapy
01 Feb 2016

MIA's research pivotal in TGA's approval of new therapy

Clinical research undertaken at MIA has been pivotal in supporting the recent Therapeutic Goods Administration approval of Opdivo (nivolumab) for advanced melanoma.

The Face of Melanoma March
28 Jan 2016

The Face of Melanoma March

Maddison, the face of our Melanoma March campaign, knows the far-reaching effects that melanoma can have.