Sharing our research on the global stage at 2021 ASCO Annual Meeting

Sharing our research on the global stage at 2021 ASCO Annual Meeting

7 June 2021

Research from MIA was once again in the spotlight as findings were shared at the virtual ASCO21 - the world’s largest professional oncology meeting.

In addition to the recent story revealing the success of a new immunotherapy trial for melanoma, another 14 abstracts involving our researchers were shared at the conference on the weekend. Here is a snapshot of just a few findings: 

Managing immune-related side effects

Treatment of melanoma with immunotherapy can be lifesaving; however, it can also be complicated by significant side effects as the activated immune system cells may attack healthy cells as well. Most of the side effects occur in the skin, liver, bowel, thyroid gland and lungs, though any organ can be affected.

Immune cells communicate by producing small proteins, called ‘cytokines’, which co-ordinate the body’s response against inflammation. Sometimes this response can go into overdrive, resulting in increased levels of cytokines, making the inflammation worse.

Medical Oncologist Dr Florentia Dimitriou and colleagues identified a cytokine, known as IL-6, which is increased in many inflammatory conditions, including viral infections, like COVID-19, and rheumatoid diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

“We used a specific drug that blocks IL-6, known as tocilizumab, and found the drug reduced the inflammation and lessened the symptoms in these patients,” said Dr Dimitriou. “Based on this observation, the drug we used specifically blocks the activated cytokines and controls the inflammation, without suppressing the immune system.”

Management of Stage III/IV melanoma with immunotherapy after surgery

Immunotherapy after surgery for Stage III melanoma has become the standard treatment approach. Research from Clinical Nurse Consultant Rebecca Johnson and colleagues aimed to understand who is being treated with immunotherapy across Australia, how effective the treatment was, and the variety of treatment options that are implemented if the melanoma recurs.

“Overall, we found the efficacy of treatment was similar to the clinical trials,” said Ms Johnson. “For most patients with melanoma recurrence, there was evidence of disease in distant organs within two years of recurrence. Across the study, these patients were treated with a variety of treatment options.”

Progression on combination immunotherapy

Research from MIA’s Medical Oncologist Dr Ines Silva and her team focussed on patients whose disease progressed after first being treated with combination immunotherapy - drugs that stimulate immune cells to fight cancer. Although around half of these patients are still alive five years after starting treatment, the majority of patients will progress and may require further treatment.

“We looked at how patients’ disease progressed from first-line treatment with a combination of anti-PD1 therapy and ipilimumab, and then determined management strategies for these patients,” said Dr Silva.

“We have shown that in a group of patients, therapy that targets BRAF mutant melanoma, rechallenged with anti-PD1 alone or in combination with ipilimumab and investigational drugs (in clinical trials), showed activity in this setting, and can be considered a treatment option in this context; chemotherapy has no role in these patients.”

Understanding the importance of radiotherapy after surgery in the modern era of immunotherapy

When melanoma spreads from the skin to nearby lymph nodes, the chances of melanoma coming back after it is surgically removed can be quite high for some patients. In this situation, radiotherapy can be given after surgery to the nearby lymph node area to reduce the chance of melanoma returning.

In an era where immunotherapy is now often given to reduce recurrence after surgery, Medical Oncologist Dr Prachi Bhave and colleagues at MIA investigated whether adjuvant radiotherapy is still effective in reducing melanoma recurrence. The study found that radiotherapy significantly reduced the risk of melanoma returning in nearby lymph nodes, and therefore continues to have a role in some patients whose melanoma has returned despite receiving immunotherapy after surgery.

To find out more about the leading research from MIA that was presented at ASCO, you can read their poster presentations here or see abstracts here.

#ASCO21

Australasian Melanoma Conference AMC2021
19 Nov - 20 Feb 2021

Australasian Melanoma Conference AMC2021

The 2021 Australasian Melanoma Conference (AMC2021) will held in Sydney, Australia.

Amie St Clair 10th Annual Ball
26 Jun 2021

Amie St Clair 10th Annual Ball

Celebrate the 10th anniversary of Amie St Clair Melanoma at the Annual Ball in Wagga Wagga!   

Riverina Melanoma Ride
14 Oct - 21 Oct 2021

Riverina Melanoma Ride

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!

Queen's Birthday Honour for Professor Richard Scolyer
13 Jun 2021

 Queen's Birthday Honour for Professor Richard Scolyer

MIA's Prof Scolyer has been appointed as an Officer (AO) of the Order of Australia. 

Tags: melanoma
Sharing our research on the global stage at 2021 ASCO Annual Meeting
07 Jun 2021

Sharing our research on the global stage at 2021 ASCO Annual Meeting

Research from MIA was once again in the spotlight as findings were shared at the virtual ASCO21. 

Tags: melanoma
Australian researchers lead world in successful trial of new cancer treatment
03 Jun 2021

Australian researchers lead world in successful trial of new cancer treatment.

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.

Tags: melanoma
Thank you doesn't seem enough for our melanoma nurses.
28 May 2021

Thank you doesn't seem enough for our melanoma nurses.

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.

Tags: melanoma
Sharing our knowledge of melanoma on the global stage
20 Apr 2021

Sharing our knowledge of melanoma on the global stage

As leaders in the field of melanoma, clinicians and researchers from MIA shared their knowledge at the virtual 10th World Congress of Melanoma. 

Tags: melanoma
Community Fundraising Wrap Up Jan-Mar 2021
15 Apr 2021

Community Fundraising Wrap Up Jan-Mar 2021

The easing of COVID restrictions has meant the return of community events, and we recognise the generous support of our community fundraisers.

Tags: melanoma
Melanoma patients and their families urged to speak up and put national spotlight on melanoma.
15 Apr 2021

Melanoma patients and their families urged to speak up and put national spotlight on melanoma.

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.

Tags: melanoma
Support for Melanoma March has come from everywhere
12 Apr 2021

Support for Melanoma March has come from everywhere

We have been buoyed by the wonderful support for our Melanoma March campaign, and our mission to cover Australia in footprints continues into April!

An inspiring WA Melanoma Community Forum
26 Mar 2021

An inspiring WA Melanoma Community Forum

There was a wonderful feeling of community support amongst the melanoma patients, families and friends at the WA Melanoma Community Form. 

Tags: melanoma
Family of 8-year-old with melanoma calls on all Australians to step up to help save lives
26 Mar 2021

Family of 8-year-old with melanoma calls on all Australians to step up to help save lives

The Price family has decided to share their story to inspire Australians to support research into new melanoma treatments.

Tags: melanoma
Rethinking skin surveillance for high-risk melanoma patients
18 Mar 2021

Rethinking skin surveillance for high-risk melanoma patients

New research has provided evidence in favour of a structured skin surveillance program for high-risk melanoma patients.

Tags: melanoma
Australia's oldest melanoma survivor steps up to save lives on his 105th birthday
11 Mar 2021

Australia's oldest melanoma survivor steps up to save lives on his 105th birthday

Melanoma research saved Bert's life at 101 and now he wants to give back. 

Tags: melanoma
Predicting disease spread in thin melanoma
05 Mar 2021

Predicting disease spread in thin melanoma

A new MIA online risk calculator for clinicians can determine the likelihood of thin melanoma spreading.   

Tags: melanoma
Exploring our own clinical questions through MIA's new trials initiative
04 Mar 2021

Exploring our own clinical questions through MIA's new trials initiative

MIA has recently established a new division of our Clinical Trials Program which co-ordinates and manages investigator-led multi-centre trials. 

Tags: melanoma
Young researchers awarded Fellowships to pursue innovative treatments for melanoma
04 Mar 2021

Young researchers awarded Fellowships to pursue innovative treatments for melanoma

Two young researchers from MIA and The University of Sydney awarded Cancer Institute NSW fellowships.

Tags: melanoma
Young researchers receive boost to develop innovative treatment for melanoma
04 Mar 2021

Young researchers receive boost to develop innovative treatment for melanoma

Two young researchers from MIA and The University of Sydney awarded Cancer Institute NSW fellowships.

Tags: melanoma
Launch of Melanoma March 2021
01 Mar 2021

Launch of Melanoma March 2021

Aussies urged to leave their footprint on melanoma as efforts step up to save lives from the disease.

Tags: melanoma