MIA contributes to major research breakthrough which pioneers a new way of treating cancer

MIA contributes to major research breakthrough which pioneers a new way of treating cancer

1 June 2015

 

Melanoma Institute Australia (MIA) has had a strong presence at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) congress in Chicago; where the best ever results seen in metastatic melanoma treatment clinical trial have been presented. Two large international trials, to which MIA contributed, have shown that combinations of new melanoma drugs result in major improvements in disease control and patient survival compared to current therapy.

One study (CheckMate 067), presented in the plenary session, was the first phase 3 trial to combine modern immunotherapy drugs in any cancer. The trial demonstrated improvements in both tumour response and patient survival with the combination of ipilimumab (Yervoy®) with the PD-1 antibody nivolumab (Opdivo®) compared to either therapy given alone. This is not only a major advance for melanoma treatment, but provides the impetus to attempt this approach in other cancer types and with other drug combinations.

Updated results were presented from a second study of targeted therapy (COMBI-D), where a BRAF inhibitor (dabrafenib) was combined with a MEK inhibitor (trametinib) and compared to BRAF inhibitor treatment alone. Again, patients responded better and lived longer with better quality of life with the combination treatment, cementing this as the new standard targeted therapy treatment for metastatic melanoma for patients with BRAF-positive tumours.

Associate Professor Georgina Long of MIA and the University of Sydney, co-author on these studies,  says,  “Melanoma Institute Australia is leading the way and making major steps forward in cancer history.  Two large clinical trials presented at ASCO show that two drugs are better than one for improving patient outcome, both for targeted therapies and immunotherapies, and are the new way of treating cancer.”

In April an international study to which MIA contributed the highest number of patients found that the PD-1 antibody pembrolizumab (KEYTRUDA®) prolonged survival and had less high-grade toxicity compared with ipilimumab (YERVOY®) in patients with advanced melanoma, where melanoma has spread to distant parts of the body. The results from this latest announcement at ASCO prove that the combination of immunotherapy drugs is a better alternative for the majority of melanoma patients. 

“MIA has already broken ground with the PD-1 study that showed that the PD-1 antibody pembrolizumab is better than current treatments for patients with advance melanoma, reducing the size of tumours in 70% of patients and recording a one year survival rate of 74%  - where it had previously been 58%.  The latest findings of combination immunotherapies are the next level of how we treat not just melanoma, but cancer around the world,” Associate Professor Alex Guminski, Clinical Researcher and Consultant Medical Oncologist, Melanoma Institute Australia.

“The latest results are more great news for patients with melanoma, and have implications for all cancer patients.  By focusing on the science behind cancer, we can design further treatments that improve response and survival, and hopefully even cure some people,” says Assoc Professor Long.  

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