MIA researchers to share new findings at world's largest cancer conference

MIA researchers to share new findings at world's largest cancer conference

25 May 2017

Researchers from Melanoma Institute Australia (MIA) will be presenting their latest research findings to more than 30,000 oncology professionals in Chicago at the world’s largest oncology conference, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting, in June 2017.

The following new research from MIA will be presented:

Pioneering life-extending treatment for advanced melanoma patients with brain tumours

Professor Georgina Long will present results from the ground-breaking Anti-PD1 Brain Collaboration (ABC) clinical trial. The study demonstrates that patients with advanced melanoma that has spread to the brain can have increased life expectancy and possibly even beat the disease when treated with a combination of two different immunotherapy drugs: nivolumab (Opdivo®) and ipilimumab (Yervoy®).

Results show 79% of advanced melanoma patients with brain metastases treated with the combination immunotherapy were still alive at six months. 66% of those who got nivolumab alone were also alive after six months. Typically, patients with active brain metastases survive only four to five months and are not eligible to participate in clinical trials because their prognosis is so dire.

Understanding how radiotherapy affects the brain of patients on immunotherapy

Now that we have a clearer idea of how effective immunotherapy can be in patients with brain metastases, further international research led by MIA has documented the incidence of radionecrosis – a side effect of combining cerebral radiotherapy and immunotherapy. These findings will be presented by Dr Ines Silva.

Preventing progression to Stage IV disease

Preventing patients from dying of melanoma is one of the primary goals of research. By giving therapies to high-risk Stage III melanoma patients that have proven to be effective in Stage IV patients, the hope is to prevent Stage IV melanoma from ever occurring.

Dr Alexander Menzies will present findings on preliminary results from the International Neoadjuvant Melanoma Consortium. The study found that Stage III melanoma patients who receive treatment with immunotherapy and targeted therapy before surgery have a high complete response rate and are likely to not progress to Stage IV melanoma.

Using personalised medicine to understand response to treatment

By organising data from the analysis of the genes in each patient’s melanoma, researchers at MIA have identified the best personalised medicine regime for each patient. Research will be presented by Dr Ines Silva that shows patients with a genetic mutation called BRAF V600E do poorly on targeted therapy but tend to respond well to immunotherapy. Patients with the V600K version of the mutated gene do much better on immunotherapy and tend to have less success on the targeted therapies. This new research will be presented to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to encourage change to its mandate that all patients must be given targeted therapy as first-line treatment.

The role of targeted therapies in brain metastases

An international clinical trial that MIA participated in investigated the effectiveness of targeted therapies that work by blocking specific genes in the tumours of patients with brain metastases. Research will be presented at the conference from the COMBI-MB study that showed the primary endpoint was met when patients were treated with a combination of dabrafenib and trametinib in patients with BRAF V600-mutant brain metastases.

Using circulating tumour DNA to differentiate disease progression

Circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) has been shown to be a useful biomarker to predict response to treatment for advanced melanoma patients. New research, to be presented by Dr Jenny Lee, will show that ctDNA can be used in patients treated with anti-PD1 therapy who have disease progression in their initial CT imaging, accurately differentiating those patients who will subsequently respond 6-9 months later and those patients who have true progression. This has important implications both in terms of duration of treatment and prognosis.