Melanoma breakthrough paves way for personalised treatment for all cancer patients
14 February 2019
Australian researchers have for the first time identified specific cells and receptors in the immune system which predict how a patient will respond to treatment with immunotherapies, potentially paving the way for the development of personalised therapy for all cancer patients.
The groundbreaking research, published in Cancer Cell by a team of researchers from Melanoma Institute Australia (MIA), identifies markers of response and resistance in metastatic melanoma patients.
Co-Medical Director of Melanoma Institute Australia, Professor Georgina Long, said the findings have the potential to revolutionalise how treatment is delivered for all cancer patients.
‘Immunotherapy is the new frontier of melanoma treatment, and whilst it has had astounding results for patients who respond, there has been a subset of patients who are resistant to the treatment,’ Professor Long said.
‘Being able to identify the immune markers of response takes out the guess work, and allows us to be proactive in providing the right drug treatment for the right patients. This has the potential to revolutionise how all cancers are treated around the world.’
The Melanoma Institute Australia team, led by PhD student Tuba Nur Gide and postdoctoral scientists Camelia Quek and James Wilmott, performed immune profiling on 158 tumour biopsies from melanoma patients treated with anti-PD-1 monotherapy or combined anti-PD-1 and anti-CTLA-4 therapy.
They found that genes involving immune memory and activation were higher in responders to immunotherapy, whereas non-responders showed higher levels of genes related to tumour adaptation and cancer cell survival.
Examining more closely the immune cells in the tumours of responders, a specific sub-type of T-cell was found to be correlated with response and survival. Patients with this immune cell had significant shrinkage of their tumours, and longer progression-free survival .
Non-responding patients were found to lie in two distinct groups – one that can possibly benefit from other available treatment combinations, and another that requires more research into novel treatment strategies. The first group were seen to have several other potential therapeutic targets, possibly leading to the development of individualised immunotherapy for selected patients.
‘In addition to knowing up front which patients are likely to respond to current immunotherapy treatments, these findings will also enable us to focus research efforts on developing new therapies targeting the biological markers identified in current non-responders,’ Professor Long added.
‘The result will be personalised immunotherapy treatment for all patients, based not on their type of cancer, but based on their tumour’s unique biology.’
The study is the largest dataset of patients treated with anti-PD-1-based therapies to be published to date, and this data is now available for use by researchers and clinicians internationally.
The 2021 Australasian Melanoma Conference (AMC2021) will held in Sydney, Australia.
A re-cap of the wonderful, and often very creative, community fundraising initiatives over the April to June quarter.
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.
MIA researchers have recently been awarded two competitive funding grants, which will help facilitate their ground-breaking work in melanoma research.
Melanoma survivor Matt Kean is doing a 1000km bike ride around the Riverina this October, 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!
Celebrate the 10th anniversary of Amie St Clair Melanoma at the Annual Ball in Wagga Wagga!
Riverina patients gain access to potentially life saving immunotherapy treatment close to home.
MIA's Prof Scolyer has been appointed as an Officer (AO) of the Order of Australia.
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.
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.
The easing of COVID restrictions has meant the return of community events, and we recognise the generous support of our community fundraisers.
Melanoma patients and their carers are being urged to participate in a ground-breaking survey which will shape the future of melanoma treatment, research, support and funding in Australia.
We have been buoyed by the wonderful support for our Melanoma March campaign, and our mission to cover Australia in footprints continues into April!
There was a wonderful feeling of community support amongst the melanoma patients, families and friends at the WA Melanoma Community Form.
The Price family has decided to share their story to inspire Australians to support research into new melanoma treatments.
New research has provided evidence in favour of a structured skin surveillance program for high-risk melanoma patients.
Melanoma research saved Bert's life at 101 and now he wants to give back.
A new MIA online risk calculator for clinicians can determine the likelihood of thin melanoma spreading.