MIA takes centre stage at leading cancer conference

MIA takes centre stage at leading cancer conference

5 June 2019

Researchers from Melanoma Institute Australia (MIA) took centre stage at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting in Chicago, attended by over 40,000 professionals. Results presented by MIA’s contingent have the potential to create better patient outcomes and change the way advanced melanoma is treated.

Four independent presentations on melanoma were given by MIA researchers at the world’s leading oncology conference, and a highly prestigious Clinical Sciences Symposium was presented in the Next Generation Therapeutics and Biomarkers session by postdoctoral researcher Dr Inês Da Silva.

“Four presentations from one institution, including a Clinical Science Symposium, is unprecedented. These presentations will change the way we treat melanoma patients, as well as their quality of life,” said MIA’s Co-Medical Director, Professor Georgina Long.

Dr Da Silva’s research is paving the way for personalised therapies, as she unveiled a detailed analysis of melanoma biomarkers to predict treatment response. Currently, biomarkers for response to immunotherapy have been studied in isolation. Dr Da Silva looked at a range of characteristics of patients and their melanoma and how these interact to create a multivariate predictive model. Her research found that high levels of two molecular factors – tumour mutational burden and interferon gamma – are predictive of good response to immunotherapy and longer progression-free survival in patients with metastatic cutaneous melanoma. Importantly, Dr Da Silva focused on patients who are outliers’ – those who do not have these features who responded to therapy, or those who have these features who did not respond. Looking closely at what makes these patients different could prove crucial in our understanding of resistance and help us find treatments that will work for patients who currently don’t respond.

“These outliers are so important to our research. These are the patients who can teach us about resistance or conversion to therapy, which is our next big research focus,” said Professor Richard Scolyer, Co-Medical Director of MIA.

Another MIA presentation outlined what researchers hope will be the new benchmark for drug testing and regulatory approval. MIA’s Associate Professor Alex Menzies presented analyses of data from six neoadjuvant clinical trials on behalf of the International Neoadjuvant Melanoma Consortium (INMC). Neoadjuvant immunotherapy, where a drug is given prior to surgery then continued afterwards, shows early promise as the new standard of treatment with evidence suggesting it may be more effective in melanoma patients. The data suggests it could act as a possible early marker of long-term survival. This is determined by the patient’s pathological response rate, which is identified through a biopsy. To date, no patient in any of the trials with a complete pathological response has shown disease progression at all throughout two years of follow-up. Due to this success, the INMC is developing a ‘Master Protocol’ for neoadjuvant clinical trials to standardise trial design, pathological assessment, and translational research. This will allow new drugs to be compared with current standard-of-care in a quick and efficient way, leading to the possibility of quicker approvals for drugs that show therapeutic benefit.

MIA medical oncology fellow Dr Carina Owen presented the analysis from her study looking at international data of patients who recur on adjuvant immunotherapy (immunotherapy given after surgical intervention). Her analysis reveals that patients who recur after stopping treatment early or completing their therapy may respond to further immunotherapy. This is termed salvage therapy and has the potential to open further lines of treatment and longer survival for these patients. Most patients who recur, however, will recur early while on treatment. These patients are resistant to therapy, and none of the patients analysed in this study responded to subsequent therapy. This underscores the need for more research and further clinical trials to cater to these resistant patients – the next phase of MIA’s research focus.

Professor Angela Hong also presented the results from MIA’s whole brain radiotherapy (WBRT) trial. The international Phase III trial found that WBRT does not prolong overall survival compared to observation. As WBRT can be morbid, using this information as the foundation for treatment changes will improve the quality of life for patients whose melanoma has spread to the brain.

In the melanoma and skin cancer poster session, MIA was again well-represented with six posters on display. Professor Long presented two posters summarising new and further results from clinical trials. The newest cohort of patients on the Keynote-029 study have been analysed, and it was found that the combination of pembrolizumab and ipilimumab given in a new dosing schedule is effective and safe, with more follow-up to come. The continuing Combi-I trial has been analysed for updated safety and efficacy, showing promising durability of response with manageable toxicities.

A poster by Dr Inês Da Silva described a model to predict response to immunotherapy. Importantly, the best predictors of response are routinely collected clinical factors, easily accessible through a blood test, making this a practical and inexpensive tool to help guide clinicians in making treatment choices for their patients. PhD student Dr Jenny Lee presented a poster on the use of circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) as a biomarker for the presence and monitoring of melanoma brain metastases. While she found that ctDNA was not a useful biomarker for the status of brain metastases, it is till a useful tool for determining extracranial response.

Associate Professor Matt Carlino presented the outline of a new clinical trial, where giving patients with resected Stage II melanoma adjuvant pembrolizumab will be compared with the current standard of care, observation. Finally, clinical trials manager Maria Gonzalez presented a poster summarising MIA’s new ABC-X clinical trial, aided by funding from Jay’s Longest Melanoma March. This trial will combine radiotherapy with immunotherapy in patients with brain metastases to determine if this will increase the effectiveness of the treatment.

“We’re exceptionally proud of our ASCO presenters. Each one is pushing forward the treatment landscape for our patients and edging closer to our goal of zero deaths from melanoma,” said Professor Long.

 

Next Steps for National Screening Program for Melanoma
23 Mar 2020

Next Steps for National Screening Program for Melanoma

On Friday, a publication that lays out the steps needed to find out if a systematic screening program for melanoma would benefit all Australians was published in the Australia & New Zealand Journal of Public Health.

Melanoma March Update
13 Mar 2020

Melanoma March Update

Melanoma March events have been cancelled. A Virtual March will be held on Sunday 29th March. Read this statement from MIA CEO Matthew Browne.   

Saving lives this summer: 'Game On Mole!'
11 Mar 2020

Saving lives this summer: 'Game On Mole!'

Thank you to the thousands of Aussies who bought ‘Game On Mole‘ t-shirts, took selfies, shared t-shirt pics on social media and started lifesaving conversations around sun safety and skin health.

PBS boost for melanoma patients
01 Mar 2020

PBS boost for melanoma patients

Melanoma patients now have greater access to subsidised immunotherapy thanks to additional treatments today being listed on the PBS.

An open letter to all young Australians
25 Feb 2020

An open letter to all young Australians

Brisbane couple Leon and Tamra Betts were, like thousands of others around Australia, on the couch watching MAFS when newlywed Natasha ran through her weekly beauty routine. When they heard the 26-year-old mention solarium use, they were shocked, and then saddened, prompting this open letter to all young Australians.

MIA leads world-class skin tumour pathology conference
14 Feb 2020

MIA leads world-class skin tumour pathology conference

Professor Richard Scolyer, Co-Medical Director of Melanoma Institute Australia, will welcome international attendees this weekend to a sold-out, two-day course on ‘Pigmented Lesions and Other Hot Topics in Dermatopathology’.

MAFS, it is time for a reality check on solariums.
07 Feb 2020

MAFS, it is time for a reality check on solariums.

It is time for a reality check on solariums.
They have no place in anyone’s beauty routine.

Community Fundraising January Wrap-Up
07 Feb 2020

Community Fundraising January Wrap-Up

Throughout January our community created, hosted and participated in some amazing events, each of them helping us on our quest to reach zero deaths from melanoma.

Kyly Clarke urges Aussies to step up to save lives from melanoma
03 Feb 2020

Kyly Clarke urges Aussies to step up to save lives from melanoma

Australian television presenter, interior designer and mother Kyly Clarke has been announced as the new Ambassador for Melanoma Institute Australia (MIA) and its national awareness and fundraising campaign Melanoma March.

Improving support for our patients across Australia.
03 Feb 2020

Improving support for our patients across Australia.

Melanoma Institute Australia has recently partnered with three other organisations to boost support for melanoma patients and their carers across Australia.   

Boost to melanoma support in WA
31 Jan 2020

Boost to melanoma support in WA

Melanoma patients and their families across Western Australia will benefit from strengthened and expanded services with the merging of melanomaWA and Melanoma Institute Australia.

New Test to Predict Primary Melanoma Progression
21 Jan 2020

New Test to Predict Primary Melanoma Progression

Australian researchers have played a critical role in the discovery of a potential new test to predict which early stage melanoma patients are at high risk of their disease recurring and progressing.

Community Fundraising December Wrap-Up
14 Jan 2020

Community Fundraising December Wrap-Up

We are extremely grateful for our community fundraisers, who, even in this difficult time, have given up their time and effort to fundraise so we can continue to work towards our goal of zero deaths from melanoma.

Two melanoma treatments approved for PBS listing
24 Dec 2019

Two melanoma treatments approved for PBS listing

Melanoma patients are set to benefit from subsidised access to immunotherapy treatment for high risk early-stage and advanced-stage melanoma patients.    

Immunotherapy: the decade's biggest health advance
23 Dec 2019

Immunotherapy: the decade's biggest health advance

An informative article on how immunotherapy is revolutionising cancer treatment, written by Jill Margo and featured in the Australian Financial Review.  

 

Boost to Melanoma Services in the Riverina
12 Dec 2019

Boost to Melanoma Services in the Riverina

Melanoma patients and their families in the Riverina will benefit from strengthened and sustained melanoma services with the merger of the Amie St Clair Melanoma Trust and Melanoma Institute Australia.

Winner of the SunSafe Student Ambassador Program announced
11 Dec 2019

Winner of the SunSafe Student Ambassador Program announced

Belmont High School at Lake Macquarie has been announced winner of the 2019 SunSafe Student Ambassador Program video competition.

Community Fundraising November Wrap-Up
04 Dec 2019

Community Fundraising November Wrap-Up

It’s time again to say thank you to our amazing community fundraisers!

MIA & MPA Patient Information Evening videos now available
03 Dec 2019

MIA & MPA Patient Information Evening videos now available

Videos of the sessions at the recent Patient Information Evening co-hosted by Melanoma Institute Australia (MIA) and Melanoma Patients Australia (MPA) are now available for viewing.

MIA shines in poster session
22 Nov 2019

MIA shines in poster session

MIA is well-represented in the poster sessions at the Society for Melanoma Research 2019 Congress in the USA, with four poster presentations being given by members of our translational research lab.