Opinion: Fighting the Resistance
25 August 2016
Jane Cadzow’s Good Weekend feature quite rightly celebrates the advent of immunotherapies in cancer treatment and the results these are delivering for patients especially, but not only, in melanoma.
However, like a palimpsest there is another story underneath which must be revealed. This feature just touches on it: resistance. If immunotherapies have emerged as the promised land for cancer patients, then resistance is its border crossing. Currently, we have no way of knowing who will successfully make it across the border and why. These ‘wonder drugs’ only work for 70% of patients. The other 30% do not respond at all. Similarly, targeted therapies, which block the action of a particular mutated gene, work initially in 95% of patients but 70% will develop resistance over time.
Nowhere have immunotherapies demonstrated greater success than in treatment of advanced melanoma. Previously, melanoma was the cancer no one wanted to have because the only treatment was surgery and that only worked if diagnosed early. Today through our clinical trials program at Melanoma Institute Australia, we are achieving remarkable results with patients with advanced melanoma which has spread to other organs. Their one-year survival rate in 2011 was 25%. It is now 75%. Their two-year survival rate is over 50%. It used to be less than 15%.
The next frontier in cancer research is unlocking the mystery of resistance and how to overcome it, as well as developing the ability to accurately predict an individual’s response to therapies. The vast array of samples held in our BioSpecimen Bank, the largest in melanoma in the world, are enabling this research. Liquid biopsies are being developed with bloods as early predictors of therapeutic outcome. Tissue donated whilst on therapy is being used to examine both the tumour genome and its micro-environment to discover the drivers of resistance.
Resistance is the story in cancer today, and an even more significant narrative in other tumours than in melanoma. As drugs developed for melanoma are now leading the way, it is our aspiration that in short order it will be melanoma research which surmounts the obstacle of resistance to truly enable precision medicine for cancers: the right therapy for the right person, at the right time and in the right dose, so we really can claim cure.
Chief Executive Officer
Melanoma Institute Australia
In a recent issue of Cancer Cell journal, Prof Georgina Long AO and Prof Richard Scolyer discuss the challenge of bringing together clinical work and scientific research to underpin successful cancer research.
Clinicians around the world now have access to a new online calculator that predicts the risk that a patient’s primary melanoma has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
Professor Long has been appointed as an Officer (AO) of the Order of Australia (General Division) for distinguished service to medicine, particularly, to melanoma clinical and translational research, and to professional medical societies.
“I had a complete response within about six months. All of my tumours disappeared."
‘We are extremely proud of our ongoing contribution to the global effort to save lives from melanoma, with Dr Silva’s prestigious award proof that we continue to lead the way,'
MIA's Co-Medical Director, Professor Richard Scolyer, has achieved a Google Scholar h-index of 100.
We know what Melanoma March means to our community, so when we had to cancel our physical events, we created Melanoma March Virtual so that everyone across Australia could still connect to honour loved ones and support each other.
A must-read personal account by Garry Maddox in The Sydney Morning Herald of how immunotherapy is revolutionising melanoma treatment.
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 events have been cancelled. A Virtual March will be held on Sunday 29th March. Read this statement from MIA CEO Matthew Browne.
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Melanoma patients now have greater access to subsidised immunotherapy thanks to additional treatments today being listed on the PBS.
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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’.
It is time for a reality check on solariums.
They have no place in anyone’s beauty routine.
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.
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.
Melanoma Institute Australia has recently partnered with three other organisations to boost support for melanoma patients and their carers across Australia.
Melanoma patients and their families across Western Australia will benefit from strengthened and expanded services with the merging of melanomaWA and Melanoma Institute Australia.
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