MIA leads the world-first study that finds anti–PD-1 antibody pembrolizumab increases the survival of patients

MIA leads the world-first study that finds anti–PD-1 antibody pembrolizumab increases the survival of patients

20 April 2015

Melanoma Institute Australia and its key affiliate, Crown Princess Mary Cancer Centre Westmead were the highest recruiting centre worldwide for the study into the immunotherapies pembrolizumab versus ipilimumab, in advanced melanoma, with the findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the leading medical journal in the world.

The study found that the anti–PD-1 antibody pembrolizumab (trade name KEYTRUDA®) prolonged survival, and had less high-grade toxicity, compared with ipilimumab (trade name YERVOY®) in patients with advanced melanoma, that is, melanoma that has spread to distant parts of the body.

Associate Professor Georgina Long from Melanoma Institute Australia and University of Sydney said, “Here at MIA and Westmead we have been undertaking clinical trials with immunotherapy treatment using anti-PD-1 drugs for over three years, and these findings are the final piece of data that show the anti–PD-1 antibody pembrolizumab is better than current treatments for patients with advanced melanoma.”

The immune checkpoint inhibitor, ipilimumab, is one of the standard treatments for patients with advanced melanoma. The latest findings show that pembrolizumab, which inhibits the programmed death receptor 1 (PD-1) immune checkpoint on immune T cells, has antitumor activity: that is, it reduces the size of the tumours in patients with advanced melanoma in approximately 70% of patients, with deep reduction in over 30%, and prolongs survival compared with ipilimumab.

This clinical trial using pembrolizumab (KEYTRUDA®) recorded a 1 year survival rate of 74%, whilst those who received ipilimumab (YERVOY®) had a 1 year survival rate of 58%. Five years ago, only 30-35% of patients with advanced melanoma survived 1-year.

“These results are world-first, where two effective immunotherapies are directly compared, and we significantly improve outcomes for patients even further. This is great news for Australia, which has the highest incidence of melanoma in the world, and an Australian dies from this disease every 6 hours” said Assoc Prof Georgina Long. “This is evidence which will be considered by bodies around the world, including the Australian Government, to make these drugs accessible to all melanoma patients".

Research Co-Director of Melanoma Institute Australia and Macquarie University Professor Rick Kefford claims, “this breakthrough is probably the most important development in the treatment of this disease ever, and a landmark in terms of cancer treatment in general.”

Others Australian centres involved in this trial include: Newcastle Melanoma Unit, NSW; The Austin Hospital, VIC; Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital, WA; Princes Alexandra Hospital, QLD; Sydney Cancer Centre, RPAH, NSW.

 

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