Advances in Melanoma Treatment
A new drug trial in France was reported in the British media this weekend which claims to offer a survival benefit in advanced melanoma. The drug used was an anti-PDL1 (programmed death ligand) antibody. What are the implications?
This is a very exciting time in melanoma research. For decades, advanced melanoma has had a poor prognosis and treatments have not improved life expectancy. In the last few years a number of new and very powerful drugs have been developed to target melanoma (and other cancers).
These types of immunotherapy target various different components of the tumour cells and cause the body’s immune system to destroy the tumour. Such drugs include vemurafenib (an anti B-Raf enzyme inhibitor) and ipilimumab (an anti-cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated protein inhibitor).
One of the problems with treating cancers such as melanoma however is that the tumour has a number of ‘escape mechanisms’ whereby it can avoid being entirely eradicated. The new treatment regimen reported involved a combination of ipilimumab with the ani-PDL1 antibody. This combination essentially blocks the tumours ability to activate it’s escape mechanisms and thereby allows the targeting process to occur with much greater effectiveness.
The results will presumably show a reduction in tumour size/number and a prolongation in survival not only in melanoma, but in other cancers too such as bowel and kidney cancer. The media are using the term ‘cure’, which is a risky assessment, as the last decades have demonstrated, advanced melanoma has been incurable.
However, we are keeping our eye on the world literature and further clinical trials and will update you as the data comes in. Exciting times.
In case you missed the previous blog entry about how to detect melanoma in your skin:
Remember, despite the advances reported this weekend – if treated early enough, malignant melanoma can be cured, so don’t delay.
What to look out for in moles that might be becoming melanoma:
1) Rapidly growing or enlarging moles
2) Moles that change shape and become irregular or asymmetrical
3) Blurring of the borders of a mole
4) Changing colour, particularly darkening, or more variations of colour appearing
5) Ulceration or bleeding